I stood next to the electric fence, its current of energy clicking like a castanet around the perimeter of the rolling pasture. I had just finished my morning run, and my senses were feasting on the lush humidity of green grass, mud puddles, and cow pies. I couldn’t help but sing.
I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
A nearby heifer lifted her head and swung my way.
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me,
Another spotted girl on the southern slope abandoned her to-go breakfast and ambled towards the music. Then, another. And another. The heifers were peeling off one by one, now, defying the herd mentality for music. Perhaps cows and musicians are kindred spirits?
Loves me ev’ry day the same,
Even calls me by my name.
At this point, six black-and-white heifers stood silently before me in a line, their shoulders hunched together like shy teenagers at a party. I was singing about the wrong animal, but they didn’t seem to mind. At least the Hero was correct. I started in on stanza two.
From somewhere behind me, a screen door opened and slammed shut, and soon two boyish pairs of bare feet were braving the gravel driveway to come stand at my side. Apparently, cows are not the only creatures willing to leave breakfast for a good hymn-sing.
“Let’s sing the Offertory,” I suggested to my short companions. They didn’t hesitate, their sweet voices floating over the sun-streaked countryside like birds on a breeze.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not a way from Thy presence,
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
I looked over my shoulder to see the thirteen-year-old in braids who had quietly emerged from the farmhouse to join our choir.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,
And uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Amen.
The cows stared at us, quiet and motionless. They didn’t applaud, but they also didn’t leave.
“I think they like our music,” I said.
The older boy leaned over and whispered, “They must be Lutheran.”
The cows didn’t protest.
“But which one is the pastor?” he asked.
“I know,” the younger boy piped up. “The bull is the pastor.”
I contained my smile. “I bet you’re right. God calls men to be pastors, so it must be the bull.”
“But that one’s the organist,” the older boy confirmed, pointing to the first heifer to join our songfest. One strand of grass hung awkwardly from the corner of her mouth. The thirteen-year-old giggled with delight.
“Yes, I think she is.”
We sang a few more hits from Lutheran Service Book before waving goodbye to our cow kin. As I headed into the house to claim my own spot at my hostess’s table, I couldn’t help but thank God for dairy farms, Missouri breezes, the hospitality of dear friends in Christ, the faith of little Lutherans, and the gift that is the Church’s song.
Some days, in the fellowship of Christ, I almost feel like a mother.