When I was a 7 year old kid, after my father died of a massive heart attack, I basically moved in with my grandparents full time. My mom was falling apart and had her own battles to fight but my grandparents always stepped up in an attempt to “raise me right.” Yes, they probably were off some of the time, but that’s all I knew were Sam, a World War 2 veteran who still carried around shrapnel in his body as a result of combat in his service to our country and his wife Elizabeth aka “Betty” but I called them Nanny and PaPaw. Nanny and PaPaw were just kids when the depression came on but it stuck with them. They grew most all the food in the garden in the back yard on that Farm in Linden, Tn. They canned tomatoes, made their own pickles, when we went hunting or fishing it was not for sport, it was so we could eat. I’ve journeyed so far from my younger days and I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I digress. We had a very simple existence and there was a beautiful thing about it, I never felt unloved, or abandoned. They were instrumental in bringing me up and laying a foundation that still sticks with me. I can still hear Nanny say “don’t put you elbows on the table” or “don’t sit down until everyone else is seated she would say, “because that’s what real gentlemen do.” She had lots of other rules and to some I would say she is rolling over in her grave but Nanny if you can hear me, thank you for all you taught me. PaPaw thank you for letting me be a part of all you did, from feeding the cattle to digging fenceposts and bailing hay, I know I was probably in your way most of the time but you never let on, you just showed me how to do everything you knew how to do. Man, I learned some very valuable lessons on that farm. The one that sticks out to me today is the face that I was once a very sold out cowboy…literally a boy. I knew how to drive a tractor by the age of 8, feed the cows, hunt squirrel and catch rainbow trout but my favorite memory I have is of riding horses. My first horse was just a little old Shetland pony, her name was Ruby. She was the most gentle and sweet animal on the planet. We bought a used bridle and saddle to get her all dressed up, PaPaw threw me up in the saddle and there I went riding. It was awkward at first but I soon got the hang of it and couldn’t get enough. I remember my grandad showing me all the things to do to bring the most out of a horse. I recall having these contraptions called “spurs” on the back of my cowboy boots but for a long time I didn’t know what purpose they served. One day I asked my PaPaw what they were used for. He explained to me that if you give the horse a little nudge with these things they will respond to what you’re asking them to do. Well, that was it, I wanted to go faster now that I was comfortable with Ruby. Poor Ruby, she was so old the most I’d ever seen her do is “trot” at best (that’s kinda like a sluggish jog for a horse). I never wanted to hurt Ruby so I held off for a long time but one day I tried kicking her side a little with my spurs to see what it would do. WHOA, I never knew Ruby could “Gallop” (That’d a horse going faster that a trot). Oh man, I thought I was really something on my little pony, just me and Ruby, galloping off into the sunset. I was a cowboy, a true cowboy. Well, all this got me thinking and in my feels lately so I had to share. Life has been tough lately some of it self imposed, some of it not. It has had me in kind of a funk for a few days…lots of days in a row but…one day not too long ago God kind of spoke to me via this memory of my childhood. I felt his Holy Spirit comforting me and encouraging me but I also felt him saying these circumstances that I’m currently navigating are simply designed to make me stronger, to mold me into all that I’m designed to be but God it hurts. I don’t like it, I fight it, I wrestle with it, I cuss at it and just when I think I can’t take anymore I feel the pain of God’s “spurs”. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. Just like I didn’t my pony Ruby had it in her to RUN until that one day I gave her a couple swift spurs to the ribs. It’s like I heard God say that in the same way I nudged Ruby he was nudging me and the design of it all was to bring something great out of me that I didn’t even know existed! It’s a painful lesson yet one I’m hearing loud and clear. He’s allowing this pain in my life to “Spur” me on to the next level spiritually. I don’t think I could be as optimistic about this pain if he hadn’t spoken that to my spirit over the last few weeks. So I wanted to encourage you today, If you’re in pain or going through hard times, I know it’s not easy, BELIEVE me I know pain, just know that God is using it as a training ground for where he already knows you’re going. He knows your potential and he loves you and I so much that he won’t just let us become stagnant and just stay where we are. He loves us as any good father would do. He knows what we are capable of and he will “spur” us on, lest we forget. God loves you and he’s right there in the midst of the pain and the uncertainty he’s gonna see you through to the next level. Hebrews 12:6 states that “He chastens those whom he loves…” that word chasten literally translates to “train.” Are you in pain? That just means you’re in training. Don’t give up, hold onto hope and know that we are loved beyond anything we could ever imagine. He won’t let ya fall…or if he does it’s just to show you that you can get up again!