American Paint Horse
“He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.”
(Song of Songs 2:4, NASB)
An older man’s voice reached out through the phone line, “My wife, Bella, and I are considering donating her mare to Crystal Peaks . . .” On the other end of the call, Sarah scribbled hasty notes as he spoke. She listened while the man continued, “We’re aging and know there will come a time when we won’t be able to care for our horses like we want to. And, we just don’t ride much anymore.”
After hearing a bit of rustling, a woman’s voice faintly rose through the receiver. Sarah intuitively leaned forward to try and catch her every soft word.
“Yes, I feel I’m not giving my horse the attention she deserves,” Bella confided. The emotional quiver behind Bella’s words mirrored a deep, selfless love for her mount. “She is quiet and kind. I believe she would make a wonderful children’s horse . . .” Her voice trailed off.
Sarah wrote furiously in an attempt to capture every bit of vital information. She learned Bella and Jesse lived close to the Ranch. In addition, the thoughtful couple also offered to show her several other horses they might be interested in gifting to Crystal Peaks.
Intrigued and moved by their heartfelt offer, Sarah assured Bella that the Ranch team would pray over them and their situation. Once Sarah sensed the Lord encouraging her forward, a time was arranged to meet the endearing couple and their beloved equines.
Not long after, on a blistering summer’s day, the Ranch team made their way to Bella and Jesse’s property. As they turned into the driveway, Sarah and her assistant, Deirdre, noticed the impeccably manicured grounds and spotless paddocks. Clearly, the couple worked hard to care for their treasured animals and the land that supported them.
Jesse and Bella welcomed the two staff members warmly and led them toward the paddocks that housed their small herd. A gorgeous mare with a blonde palomino coat greeted the little group. They introduced the mare as Bella’s personal mount, a gaited Paso Fino cross. This was the horse that Bella—out of her exceeding kindness— was willing to gift to Crystal Peaks.
Humbled by the gracious offer, Sarah and Deirdre spent the next hour interacting with the special equine. After evaluating the mare’s response to groundwork and time in the saddle, they had enough information to pray about their decision. It seemed clear the kind mare would be a strong prospect for a children’s program.
When returning the gentle palomino to her paddock, a lean paint mare caught Sarah’s attention. Although officially evaluating the mare’s golden pasture mate, Sarah shifted her focus and asked about the horse across the adjoining fence line. In contrast to her fancy gaited companion, the red and white mare that drew her notice was built with the sturdy frame of a workhorse. But her heavier type did not hide the silent fact that she was underweight. The mare’s inward and withdrawn expression spoke loudly to Sarah’s heart.
With his amiable smile, Jesse shared what he knew about the mare. Earlier, the paint mare was his trail horse, but she had not been ridden in several years. Jesse explained how he thought the mare likely missed the time and attention of carrying a rider.
Intuitively, Sarah placed her hands over the horse’s spotted coat. In that single moment she felt the Lord whisper within her heart, “Her name will be Banner.”
Curious, but out of time for another thorough evaluation on a second horse, Sarah and Deirdre assured the couple they would be in touch. On the way back to the Ranch, Deirdre confirmed how the paint mare had also captured her heart. For a yet unknown reason, God was specifically highlighting—not the horse they came to see—but the horse they nearly overlooked.
After prayerful deliberation and with gentle respect, the Ranch declined the gorgeous palomino. Instead, the team felt led to carefully ask the couple if they would be willing to release the slim paint mare for adoption.
True to their kind and generous nature, Jesse and Bella answered with a resounding, “Yes.” Bella was thrilled to keep her beloved companion—and—a mare who longed for a rider would come to the Ranch where there were MANY children to love.
Neither Jesse, Bella nor the Ranch staff had any idea what was about to unfold. God was positioning the spotted horse within a perfectly timed rescue mission . . . to set in motion a perfectly timed rescue of one of His precious daughters.
The Tuesday before the mare would arrive at Crystal Peaks, the Ranch hosted an outdoor worship gathering. Before the event, Sarah joined the worship team privately in prayer. During this time, one of the vocalists was overcome with compassion and began weeping. Following an urgency in her spirit, the singer shared how she felt someone would be coming who had recently relapsed into addiction. She sensed they were fighting for their life and desperately needed the transforming freedom of Christ’s love.
Through prayer, the team asked Jesus to extend His loving rescue to break the cycle of lies entrapping this mystery soul.
The evening of worship unfolded like a powerful river of joyous celebration. As only the Holy Spirit can orchestrate—at the very end of the night—a single girl was highlighted.
Under the shadows of the night sky, Sarah found Kim praying with a small group of visitors. Straining to see through the darkness, she noticed a tall and slender girl. The look of deep hopelessness shrouding the teen’s face told Sarah: This was the mystery soul . . . a child.
Stirring down through the darkness like a vortex of light, Sarah remembered the thin paint horse. Like a piece of broken mirror, the dejected mare reflected a nearly identical image of the inward and withdrawn girl. The silent parallel spoke loudly to Sarah’s heart.
Within the gathering night, a quiet conversation unfolded between them. “Madelyn,” confided she had recently relapsed into a lethal eating disorder pattern. By falling backward into this ferocious battle, suicidal lies and self-harm were her constant attackers.
Sarah listened intently and realized how God had already arranged for the new paint horse to arrive the next morning. Although the mare was well cared for and supremely loved—like Madelyn—she was arriving with a less than normal bodyweight for her size.
Clearly seeing the parallel between the horse—and the girl now standing before her—a thought poured into Sarah’s mind.
Speaking to the girl, she explained the mare’s situation and observed the uncertain expression on Madelyn’s face. Sarah pressed in, “Tomorrow we have a spotted horse coming to live at the Ranch. Would you like to join us in the morning to meet and welcome her?” Without waiting for a response, Sarah continued, “We would really appreciate your help inviting this horse into her new home. What she needs most is just a little extra love and care right now.”
An ember of quiet connection grew within Madelyn’s eyes. She responded thoughtfully, “Kinda like me?”
Sarah smiled in agreement, “Yes, kinda like you.”
In the following days, Madelyn came often to spend time with “Banner.” Through patient love and care, the painted horse settled into her new life at Crystal Peaks. Within a few short weeks, Madelyn became the first teen to ride Banner. On that day, between horse and rider, it was difficult to tell just who was smiling more.
Later, while grooming her equine friend, Madelyn heard the full story of the mare’s initial evaluation. When Sarah mentioned how God mysteriously spoke Banner’s name—the girl froze—holding her brush in midair.
“Wait . . . what . . . when was that?” Madelyn faltered. Curious of the girl’s unusual response, Sarah repeated the timeline.
Madelyn stammered in awe, “That was the same week I fell back into relapse.”
Pure wonder streamed across Madelyn’s face as she realized how God was systematically displaying His love for her—in a way that could not be explained by “coincidence.” Only Jesus could miraculously align each moment and every detail to show a hurting girl just how much He loved her.
While Madelyn was slipping back toward hopelessness—the Lord was securing the adoption of a horse—who would draw her back toward wholeness. When she felt alone in a losing battle—God called prayer warriors who had never met her—to intercede on her behalf. And when Madelyn felt lost and unnoticed within a crowd, she was chosen—apart from all others—to welcome a new horse who mirrored her heart.
“He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” (Song of Songs 2:4, NASB)
Through her specific journey, a girl watched as God wove His strong threads of love, hope and truth within her life circumstances into a beautiful tapestry . . . a banner of His love over her.
In one child’s blackest night, God unfurled His brilliant banner of love against the darkness warring for her heart.
“But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.” (Psalm 60:4, NIV)
Like Madelyn, many are starving to know the love of God. Jesus Christ invites everyone to surrender fighting their painful battles with their own strength and come under His streaming standard of love. He beckons all to lay down our struggles and join Him in His banquet hall. Held within this place—every lie, every fiery arrow aimed at our hearts—cannot touch us when we choose to rest under the Banner of His love.
Similar to this girl, will you take a moment to consider all the ways God has revealed His unique love for you? Will you allow His truths to blanket your heart with trust? And—as the name of our special painted horse reminds us—will you face each lie of discouragement warring against your life by raising up His Banner of love for you?
For those who choose to rest beneath this blessed covering, God supplies a continual feast of His joy, peace and presence.
Daily, our beautiful mare named Banner reminds us of this profound truth. We are so grateful for Bella and Jesse’s priceless gift, one that mirrors through her own journey God’s love for everyone.
Through the unique wisdom of a horse—Banner invites each of us to rest under the Presence of the One who loves us most.
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