God works in mysterious ways

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Michael Martin Murphey is a superb song writer and singer of western music. He has 35 albums, but is probably best known for his #1 hit “Wildfire”. He is in the Western Music Hall of Fame. He even wrote the New Mexico state song. But, contrary to his bio, he was never a wrangler at Sky Ranch. I was.

Sky Ranch wrangler 1962

  Me at the corral on Horseshoe Lake

Sky Ranch is a Christian camp in Texas where I worked as horsemanship instructor during the summers of 1962 to 1966. Murphey taught archery. Leading trail rides, I rode past the archery range and would often see him sitting in the shade of scrub oak tree, strumming his guitar, writing songs…while making sure the kids didn’t point their arrows at one another. I never figured Murphey would wind up as an owner of several ranches, an expert horseman, and a leader in the cowboy music genre. Ironic. Me the wrangler then, and now haven’t ridden a horse in years. Murphey then an archery instructor, now a worthy poster child for the old west cowboy. God does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

Even more ironic is that I was allowed to even be near a horse, much less teach kids how to ride. I was clueless about horses and kids. But, God in His mercy and grace, gave me a kind friend, a real cowboy, Jim Barrett, to take me under his wing and patiently teach me about horses, feeding them, riding them, taking care of them and their tack. I didn’t even own a pair of boots or a cowboy hat before my first summer there.

Those hot, humid summers at camp just north of Dallas, were some of the best years of my young teen life in the Lord. Every meal we’d sing gospel songs (many I can still sing word for word). Every day there was Bible exploration where I read and studied the Bible. It was at Sky that I enjoyed my first Quiet Time with God. At night, there were campfires. Yes, in the hot Texas summer nights, we burned huge bonfires. We sang silly camp songs at first; did nutty skits, lots of laughs and smores. But, as the fire settled down, the camp director turned our hearts to more serious songs that ended with a devotion from a staff member.

I shall always remember one particular campfire when Murphey talked about the stars and pointed out the constellations shining in the dark blue Texas night. I remember how impressed I was with Mike’s grasp of the vastness and details of God’s universe. I was overwhelmed with the infinite power of God. While Mike talked, I lay on my back looking at the stars, hearing the embers crackle, their sparks flying up in the smoke. Then I noticed a thunderstorm approaching on the horizon. I could see the lightning, and then hear distant thunder. Mike finished his talk, took out his guitar and led us in a song I didn’t know, “How Great Thou Art.” I cried with joy as the words of that great hymn entered my soul, “I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder”, and echoed in praise to God as I tried to express my worship of my Almighty God, who knows me by name and loves me.

Thank you, Michael Martin Murphey. God used your great gifts that night to change my life forever. May God’s greatness and good grace draw us to worship our Creator in truth and spirit, in joy and in devotion. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

For His glory,
Pastor Mike