Category Archives: AART: Animal Assisted Relationship Training

Dove Notes – Wounded by the Enemy

Do you have any wounds from the battle of life…maybe a battle scar or two?  Life is hard and hurts unavoidable.  Today, my doves offer us some new insights on wounds.

A couple weeks ago, I came home to three wounded doves.  There were slashes on their necks and at the top of their wings.  I was puzzled…in three years, there had been no coop conflicts. I pulled out the oldest male and put him in a separate cage to let him recover—and hopefully restore order.

I thought about my husband, Craig’s recent warning that a hawk had been eyeing the dove cage.  My reply at the time still made sense to me. ‘That’s no problem.  The cage is predator proof; he can’t hurt them.”  But I wondered if the hawk had increased the tension in some way. There was nothing to do but see if ‘normal’ would return.

My doves were about to fulfill the purpose I bought them for:  teaching me spiritual truths.

The next day, Craig came home to find the hawk attacking the cage–talons extended through the wire. Even then, the hawk would have been as harmless as the doves, except…the elder doves came to the front of the cage to fight him off.  The cause of the slashes was clearly exposed.

I found the whole situation mind boggling–from both the dove and the hawk vantage point.  The doves could easily have stayed outside the reach of their enemy.  The hawk could easily have found an easier meal.

The parallels to Christian life leaped out to me.

  • Like my doves, I am safe in the fortress of Christ.
  • Like the hawk, Satan seeks to destroy me.
  • Like my doves, I often engage with the enemy un-necessarily.  There are times I should simply ‘be still and know He is God’ instead of stepping up to take on the enemy.
  • Like the hawk, Satan cannot have me – even if he takes my life.

But there were more dove lessons for me to learn.

The next day, I draped a curtain over the front of the dove cage hoping that ‘out of sight’ would mean ‘ought of mind’ for Sir Hawk.  It did not. Craig returned home to find the hawk perched on top of the dove cage claiming it as his own.  More wounds were visible on the older doves. Puffing his wings out, the hawk warned Craig to stay away from his impossible dream feast.

Mr. Hawk failed to understand he had taken on more than a cage of doves. He met his end that day.  It took several days before the doves returned to their conversational selves.  Their wounds are healing.

Spiritually, I see a new beauty in my dove’s ‘foolish’ engagement of the enemy.  Had those older doves not entered into battle with the enemy, his threat would have remained.  We would not have acted to eliminate him. Their wounds produced a deeper, more real peace.

That encouraged me…and I hope you too!  Like that foolish hawk, Satan does attack Christians.  He acts like he owns us…but he is mistaken.  We have a Protector who will act on our behalf.

Sometimes the safety at the back of the cage is where we will be.  Sometimes we’ll be on the front-line and our battles will become a cry to the Father. Then, He will take the enemy out.

We may not always know where we should be, but we will be okay. We can celebrate the wounds of life that we entrust to our Protector. They offer protection, hope and healing to those not ready for battle.

We are safe and on the winning team!  Sing your Heartsong!

Dove Note – Do you hear me?

Welcome Back!  If you missed the intro to this little series of lessons from my doves, visit here.

The first Dove Note God sent through my doves was this:  “I enjoy conversation!”


Sometimes I will awaken in the middle of the night and hear my doves chattering to one another.  Their low, trilling voices are quiet and persistent.   In the afternoon when I go out to feed, they tend to be quiet until they hear my voice…and then conversation is on!  They return to quiet as I go into the cage and listen as I chatter to them.  But if I will stand quietly, the conversation resumes. Can you see the parallels in our relationship with God?


God chose to create humanity because of His great love.  He wasn’t lonely; He didn’t need people.  He loved and in that love, God created humanity.  Living in that love is His desire for every one of us.  Like the nearly constant chatter of my doves, God is speaking to us all the time…calling out, speaking sweet truths and inviting us to draw near to Him.Jeremiah-33-Pin-900x1633.jpg

Conversation with God is a joy that we can enter anytime.  His voice, like my doves, is quiet and persistent.  Have you spent time calling out to Him today?  Have you spent time listening to Him today?  God wants us to share our hearts–and share His.

Do you hear Him speaking to you? He is…and His language is love.

Dove Notes – Intro

A single mention of anything in Scripture ought to be paid attention to.  But when there are multiple mentions of any one thing, it seems to me God has something important in mind!  It piques my interest.

Scripture mentions doves over thirty times.  Often the context gives great honor to the dove.  The most well-known mention being in the baptism of Jesus, which links the Holy Spirit with the symbolism of the dove.

animal animal photography avian birds
Photo by Matthias Zomer on


And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.  Luke 3:22

In Song of Solomon, the great book on the love of God, both the lover and the beloved are said to have eyes like the dove.  Jesus sent His disciples out with the admonition to be as wise as serpents but gentle as doves.  Noah sent a dove out to learn if the ground was ready for dwelling.  Doves were a common sacrifice in Temple worship.  For more details on the Scriptural mentions of doves, Biblical Archaeology offers an in-depth look at the symbolism of doves.

Interactive learning helps me  The dove as symbolic of the Spirit of God intrigued me; so, I purchased some doves to learn from them.  It’s been a delight and I wanted to share some of their lessons.  Over the next few weeks, I will share a dove note to enjoy!  May it bless you and tune your ears to the Holy Spirit!

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Chasing Off Demon John

This is John, the resident guard mule at the farm where we board our horses, Gretchen & Scooby. Isn’t he gorgeous? His coat glistens; he lives at rapt attention; and he owns the space he occupies. He also detests being handled. John came to the farm that way. The Demon Johnowner tried simply sitting in the field with him, working to gain his trust. Eventually he allowed her to approach him without running away. He would let her get close enoughImage may contain: horse, tree, outdoor and nature that he could spin and wallop her with that strong hind-end. She tried getting a rope on him to have a vet check him…for which John dragged her through the field and woods. Bruised and sore, she resigned herself to letting John live in the fields free from human interaction. His beauty can only be admired at a distance because he is possessed by whatever his life once included.

I call him Demon John because he reminds me of the many people held captive by the evil one-those who resist all touches of love. This week when we arrived to work our horses, we found Demon John had taken up residence in their field. Observing his techniques and body language revealed clear parallels to the work of the enemy in lives all around me. I thought perhaps you would enjoy a glimpse of a principle Elaine Davis (Unbridled Faith) refers to as:

“If you read it in the Word and see it in the herd, you’ll believe it!”

The first thing we notice was how John had separated our usually inseparable horses. He proceeded to show us how he controlled their movements.  Gretchen was assigned the far corner of the field; Scooby had been placed in a wooded area near the barn. JohnDemon John my domain stood at attention between the two. He fixed his eyes on us as if to communicate, “This is my domain.”

Division is a tool of the enemy because unity is a passion of the Father.  Christ’s prayer in John 17 for his disciples (those of that time and those of us today!) was a plea for unity.  The enemy loves to step in-between us and our closest allies.  He controls our attention and prevents pro-active connections by forcing us to continually re-act to him.  In a masterful switch, we begin to believe the isolation is the fault of the other person.  We become blind to the work of the enemy.  The isolation deepens without intervention…without Jesus.

For our horses, we were the intervention that changed their reality.  As Riesa approached Scooby, John stepped in to place himself between them.  Scooby is never difficult to catch, but John moved him out into the field.  John kept himself on Scooby’s ‘dominant’ side…a few steps ahead but able to dive in and bite as needed.  He also moved him in a direction he really wanted to go–toward Gretchen.  The body language of Scooby shows him looking back to Riesa–and even listening to her call as John moves him away from her.  But John has convinced him he is more powerful and able to hurt him; Scooby has acquiesced to John as his leader.

The enemy uses a similar tactic on people.  He sees the Father approaching, calling to his precious creation.  The devil steps in to our dominant side–our strengths and our lusts–and bullies us away from the One who calls.  Like Scooby, we step toward what we want relying on our strengths (ie hard work, knowledge, skill).  We move away from the voice that calls us to relationship and connection.  We never even notice we fare ollowing one who cares nothing for us and will never give us what we long for.Gretchen I choose youAs John drove Scooby toward Gretchen, his attention was divided.  Gretchen, seeing an opportunity to be free of his domination moved toward me.  The bond Scooby has with Riesa was able to slip into the crack created by John’s loss of focus.  Riesa haltered her boy and kept John at bay while I haltered Gretchen.  Then began a fascinating glimpse of John’s impact on Scooby’s attitude and connection ability!

As children of God, we must maximize our connections with others.  There are opportunities where those we love are able to hear our call.  We must passionately pursue those in our lives with Gospel of Peace.  It must be what we are always prepared to do!  When the opportunity arises, we must be ready to connect and move our loved ones away from the pull of the enemy.

In our pasture, John’s presence remained and his impact seeped into the ‘working time’ we planned with our horses.  John maintained a close proximity to Scooby, and his Scooby you dont control mebehavior showed it.  His normally happy personality was irritable–he crow-hopped and resisted Riesa’s leadership.  Having lost his position in the herd, it seemed he was intent on establishing himself with Riesa.  Working with him, Riesa decided to help him drive Demon John out of the work area.  Watching him rise to the task and return with prancing joy at his victory will make your heart smile!


Consider where you have seen this with people.  Unhappiness comes out in resistance to the ones we are closest too. There are negative, unhealthy consequences to moving away from relationships.  Those who have lost control in one area often strive to take control in another.  Someones it is done in a positive way (eg a determination to exercise); other times it is a clearly destructive effort of control (eg bulimia).–always it falls short of the wholeness God desires. God’s desire is that we partner with Him to chase our enemy and march together in victory!

Scooby and Gretchen had a sit-com ending to their story.  It was resolved in a morning.  Life doesn’t have sit-com situations very often.  Life is messy and the after-effects of ‘demon johns’ needs commitment and love to resolve.  We need fellow believers to come along-side us and help us fight for the kingdom of God to reign in our lives.

If you would like to dig more deeply into the Word revealed in the herd, check out:

James 4:7

2 Corinthians 2:14

Deuteronomy 20:1-4

Victory as an Act of God


“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”  Proverbs 4:25

Do you ever struggle to ‘stay the course’ when you have begun a project?  I do!  Our bulldog, Barnabas fulfilled his role as “Encourager” this week as he set his mind to a task.  After receiving a new ‘toy’ – a tractor tire – he set his mind on finding a way to bring the toy into the house.  Enjoy this little slideshow and think on Barnabas when you are finding a project daunting!

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While stubborness is as witchcraft according to Scripture, learning to ‘fix our face as flint’ as Jesus did is necessary in the Christian life.  Our great and glorious God is worth every effort!  As Nehemiah admonished those rebuilding the temple, ‘Think on our God, great & glorious and fight for your families and your homes.’

Be determined to do all God puts on your heart!

Winning in Life!

Ever fight a war with an enemy caused by an enemy you cannot see?  We all have—and do.  My current battle is a minor but aggravating one:  chigger bites.  Creatures so tiny, the head of a pin can hold two or three but their poison so vile it literally dissolves skin tissue.  At first, they aren’t too noticeable but within a day or so, the itch is impossible to ignore.  Prevention is the wisest course.

My recent encounter did not catch me unaware.  I went to the woods prepared.  Long pants, boots and my favorite non-chemical bug oil (Avon Skin-so-Soft!).  My preparations kept every bug at bay except the chigger.  Tree Oil has been my battle partner for the last couple days.  Preparations that put trust in an ineffective solution do not accomplish much.  The rest of the crew who trooped into the forest used a traditional bug spray and left the adventure without chigger bites.  Trusting in myself has brought me to more battles than I can count.  Can you relate?     

As believers in Christ, we have all of the provisions we need to live well in this world.  We have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1); Christ came that we would have abundant lives (John 10) and He provides all we need for life & godliness (2 Peter 1).  Too often, we trust in ourselves, our plans or our perspective to produce what God has already provided. 

white sheep on farm
Photo by kailash kumar on

Psalm 23 offers us a natural world look at how the Good Shepherd cares for us!  The entire Psalm is abeautiful picture of resting in the care of the Shepherd but one line has captivated my thoughts as I apply healing oil to my chigger battle wounds.

“…You anoint my head with oil.”

I’ve always read that as blessings given from God, and while that’s not wrong, it’s not the whole story!  In the sheep field, there are flies that attack the sheep.  They enter the ears, lay their eggs and even burrow into the brain.  On their own, the sheep cannot rid themselves of the flies—nor can they heal the damage the flies do.  In fact, the flies create such discomfort, the sheep become frantic; they damage their own selves as trying to fix the problem.  Prevention is what the shepherd focuses on; shepherds ‘anoint’ their sheep with oil!

The Good Shepherd longs to do the same for us.  There are many destructive pestilences in this world—some we can see, some we are aware of, some we can manage—but only some.  Relying on ourselves is a losing proposition in the eternal economy.  We need the Good Shepherd.  He wants us to live abundant, peaceful, healthy lives.  He provides all we need to do just that.  The choice is ours. 

Will we receive what He longs to give?

beige sheep on green grass field under gray sky
Photo by Magnus Martinsen on


Can Horses Help us Find the Path of Life?

Horses have been used by mankind for centuries:  they have been trained and employed in myriad ways. Horses provide travelers aid, power farmers’ plows, help soldiers fight, carry burdens and manage herds.  Parents employ horses to teach children responsibility while building  physical and relational skills.  Of course, millions simply use horses for pleasure and enjoyment.  Currently, researchers are exploring the utilization of horses for academic and psychological therapy.

With all of those great roles for horses, one assignment surpasses them all:  helping establish or restore human beings to relationship with their Creator.

The God of the Bible is a relational God.  He created humanity because He loved…and love cannot be fulfilled outside of relationships.

Horses, being herd animals are naturals at relationships.  We humans crave connection, but the fall of humanity from connection to God (Genesis 3) impairs every relationship. Often we are blind to the things we do in the context of relationships.  Horses reflect what we do not see or feel in ourselves.

Perhaps more importantly, horses and humans share a common desire–a desire a horse understands more than a human.  Our craving for connection that arises from our broken relationship with God clouds are thinking.  It was at the fall that fear, shame and hiding entered the world.  Through that darkness, we pursue relationships.  A horse, on the other hand, pursues relationships exactly for the reasons we crave connection:  security.

When Adam & Eve chose to walk the path God had forbidden, they lost their security.  They also lost the identity God had given them; they chose to create their own.  Without their God-given identity, they had to craft their own significance as well.  Those two losses–security and significance–continue to plague humanity.  Connecting with a horse requires understanding that need from the equine view…which opens eyes to our own needs.

Even people who do not like horses, often want to ‘pet their nose’ and look with awe at their power and strength.  Horses, though, aren’t longing for our friendship or worship.  They want a leader they can trust.  As we engage with a horse to understand its needs, we begin to see our own needs–and the magnificent, costly way God has met every need for us.

Anxiety is the number one mental health issue facing Americans today–Christians included.  Join Heartsong Ministries in changing this – click the picture below and visit the Facebook Page for more information!

Finding the Answer to Anxiety

January 28, 2018 – 3:30 – 5:00 PM


Finding the Answer to Bullying

Nearly 80% of school age children say they feel the piercing pain of being bullied.  Surprisingly 20% of children admit they are bullies.  The answer for both bullies and the bullied is the same: learning the value of each individual.  Christians are uniquely qualified to present this message. 

Believing every person is created in the image of God sets the stage for valuing all.  Jesus first instructed his followers to love others as they loved themselves.  Later, He increased the challenge and said, “Love others as I have loved you.” Bullies don’t change the Word.  We often need help figuring out how to make a difference.  A surprising animal can help us explore the answer to bullying.

“Just ask the animals, and they will teach you….”  Job 12:7a

Heartsong Aldean

That’s right:   bunnies.  The good intentions and good goals of bunnies go awry when they do not get what they want.  They are a perfect pet partner to help children understand–and fight bullying God’s way. 

Pet-Assisted Learning (P.A.L.) sessions are a creative way to reach the children in your care. 

P.A.L. – Bunnies & Bullies 

It’s All About Me

Finding the Right Way

Feeling the pain

Living Loved

Listening to God

Getting Help

Classroom presentations include a visiting bunny and a coloring page for children.  

Finding The Answer to Anxiety

Anxiety now ranks as the Number One mental health disorder in America.  Nearly 20% of the population are being treated for anxiety-related issues…many more receive no treatment or are unaware of the root cause of problems.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, but we can’t always figure out how to let him reign over our anxieties.  Pet-Assisted Learning sessions improve knowledge application.

“Just ask the animals, and they will teach you….”  Job 12:7a

Horse-Powered learning sessions help move things we believe from our head to our heels.  The truth is that we only believe what we actually live.  Saying that Jesus has given us peace but living with anxiety is painful, destructive and even dishonest. The abundant life is ours to enjoy.  Let the animals help you learn how!

P.A.L. Path to Peace: Answering Anxiety

Traveling on the path to peace requires awareness and action.  Participants will begin by observing the animals & surroundings, and consider their own anxiety level.  With attention directed to physical signs of anxiety and active thoughts, participants will then gather their learning partner and begin. 

Leading their partner, participants will travel a pre-made obstacle course to explore:

  • what causes anxiety for horses
  • what anxiety looks like (and creates)
  • what can be done about it

Understanding the fear nature of a horse helps participants see more deeply into their  own ‘flight responses.’  After completing the course, horses will be allowed to move freely about as participants reflect on the experience and insights gained.

Participants will then build an obstacle course that reflects their personal anxieties and how it feels to navigate through those anxieties.  They will then gather their horse partner and prepare to journey through their course together.

Before that obstacle course is navigated, participant and partner travel a path of peace to gather Scripture truths that will help them conquer the obstacles.  Armed with the knowledge gained in the previous two paths, participants will then face their personal path to peace.

Sunday, January 28 – 3:30 -5:00 PM

Chester County, SC

Limited openings.  $25 per person

P.A.L. Sessions can be scheduled as private sessions or sign up for Glory Glimpse to receive notice of community sessions.

Cleaning out the heart

My animals often reveal things in my heart that I can easily manage or bury in day-to-day living.  Yesterday was Gretchen’s turn to clean out my heart.  It was hot and the week had been long and busy.  gretchen-hug  I planned to stop by for a quick pat on the nose and a weight measurement before heading home to dinner with my family.

Gretchen had other plans.  Initially, it seemed we would play a little game that I call, ‘Who’s the lead mare?’  When I’ve not been spending time with her, she likes to make me work to catch her.  I was okay with that–but like every bad habit, it grew–and it wasn’t pretty.

Instead of the usual leisurely trot by me and a stop to see if I was playing, she ran all out from one end of the field to the other–over logs, through brush.  She kept her ear toward me on each pass and stopped at the other end of the field.  A few laps of that and the amusement of the earlier games evaporated.  I had created a monster that needed correction.  And I wasn’t happy about it; it wasn’t on my agenda for the day.

I was due for a heart cleaning…emotionally, spiritually and physically.  I’ll spare you the ugly blow-by-blow physical details but the fly-over includes the pain of twisting my ankles a few times, some angry words, a few angry kicks from Gretchen, and a lot of panting, sweating and heart-thudding from both of us. Like every time that sin & flesh reign, the unrest spills over onto others…Riesa’s horse got into the action by dumping her as she tried to help me.   Struggles reveals weaknesses–and build strength!  Seeing God clearly requires seeing our short-comings and mistakes.

You can’t go with God and stay the way you are!

What Gretchen reminded me was that my agenda is not the rule of the day–nor is it her reason for being.  She is living, breathing creature with certain needs that must be met–and those are not just physical needs of food and shelter.  She needs attention that includes exercise and discipline.  I can’t just indulge her–not can I indulge myself with her.  She’s not just for my enjoyment.  In fact, her reason for being in my life is to increase my awareness of the goodness of God.  Usually she does that with the sweet enjoyment of relationship and working toward common goals.  Yesterday, her stubborn-ness was an effective tool…because she showed me how I am with the One who ‘owns me.’

You see, God often interrupts my plans too.  His ways are not mine.  Like with my horse, most of my God-time is easy awareness of the blessings of relationship.  To me, the work of faith is as much the joy as the relationship.  The principles of the Word work in life as effectively as they work in the barn.  And the joy of seeing God at work usually keeps my heart singing.  He is my heart desire and usually my preferences coincide with His.  I don’t even know that lurking below the surface is that flesh nature simply indulging itself…not sacrificially worshipping at all.

Those times of failing offer the best potential for transformation!

But yesterday, Gretchen and I had a different agenda.  My preferences were not the rule of the day, and my idols bubbled to the surface.  With my preferences pre-empted, I lost my focus on the One who determines everything.  His goodness didn’t change.  His principles didn’t change.  But I forgot to look at them…and failed to implement them.  It’s the blindness we all experience…but Jesus heals!  Infections have to be exposed and cleaned. I am so thankful for how my animals help with that process.

What we don’t see (or feel) can’t be confessed and released.  

God knew my weariness from the week.  He knew my family was waiting for me to get home for dinner.  He also knew I battle being self-centered; I tend to people-please.  Those things interfere with being a surrendered servant.  They need to go.  In His goodness, he used Gretchen to expose them in me.  In her goodness, she worked me over and through them until we implemented some biblical principles of respectful relationship.  Now it is my work to be sure I implement them in my faith walk.

All of life offers us opportunity to experience transformation.  We are all on a journey to becoming like Christ.  

How does God help you see and feel the things He wants to change in you?