Have You Heard the One About the Cowboy and the Pastor?


Our church property sits prominently on top of a hill and adjacent to an exit ramp for the only southern loop around St. Paul and Minneapolis. Every summer brings travelers out of gas, overheated engines belching out steam, and backpacking loners toting sleeping bags looking for their next ride in the cab of an eighteen wheeler.

We’ve helped single women needing a place to sleep for the night and hungry kids whose parents left New York in the minivan for a fresh start in Minnesota. Before last Saturday, I thought I’d seen it all. That’s when I heard the knock at the rear entrance glass door and saw the cowboy – I mean it, a real live cowboy – standing outside hat in hand and wearing boot cut jeans over the well-worn leather on his feet. I wrongly assumed he was looking for gas money. I could not have been farther from the truth.

“Howdy,” he said. That’s not Minnesotan, don’tcha’ know. A clue – he’s not from around here. “Could we water the horses?”

Horses? What horses?

As he told it, he and the others in his caravan were traveling from South Dakota with two trailers carrying four horses each. The weather was warm last Saturday, and the horses needed some refreshment. Was there any way we could help?

We have ten acres of land at our suburban location, and a large portion of it is open field and tree lined. The wise people who planned our property installed a water pipe to the back field should we ever need it. Last Saturday we needed it to water horses traveling in a hot trailer from South Dakota.

The cowboys unloaded their beasts who roamed the range for nearly two hours before the ‘pokes corralled them into the trailers for the next leg of the journey. I hope word gets out to the rest of the cowboys on the Pony Express that there is a watering hole in Inver Grove Heights run by a Christian church eager to bring relief to weary animals.

More than that, I hope word gets out to the neighborhoods around our building that there is a place for weary people to find relief. The place is a Christian church eager to share the love of Christ, to give a cup of cool water in Jesus’s name, and who offer the water of life freely. I hope people who know of our church think, “That’s a place where everyone can get help,” and “They don’t turn anyone away.”

I dream of us having a reputation of a place where answers to life’s hardest questions are offered freely and without a catch, a place where a knock on the door leads to a friendly greeting and a willingness to share what we have for temporal relief and eternal salvation. If cowboys can find help here, shouldn’t burdened families, troubled marriages, lonely single professionals, defeated addicts, self-absorbed executives, confused high school and college students, and most-of-life-well-spent senior citizens who know much of religion but nothing of the gospel?

As I read back over this Musing, I suppose it’s a little corny, making a devotional thought out of watering some horses, but I’m arrested at Jesus’s words, On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37).”

We’ve been satisfied by Jesus’s water, and He has given it to us to make available to others. All around our building are thirsty people, thousands of them within minutes of our property. Can we give them something to drink?

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.