He was right out of central casting: lanky frame, cowboy hat, and thick mustache. He looked the part as a cowboy poet, writer, humorist, and entertainer.

Baxter Black was a veterinarian before his storytelling wit roped him a new career. For a little fun, look him up on YouTube. I like his bit, “Religious Reflections.” He tells it better than I, but here’s the plot. He attended a wedding at a little church in the Rocky Mountains. He became distracted by a banner on the wall that said, “Mount Up With Winos.”

Black wondered if the message indicated some kind of theological drift. He thought of some similar banners that might correlate – “Ride with the Risque,” “Sail with Sinners,” and the like. After spending most of the ceremony thinking about it and as they were leaving, he asked his daughter, “What do you think about that banner?” She read it aloud. “Mount up with wings. I like it. Why?” “Just curious,” Black said as he vowed to wear his glasses more often.

The context of that familiar phrase is, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isa. 40:31). The wait is a confident expectation that God is for you. The strength is knowing that you are not alone, and that God has a way of lifting you above the chaos. To connect your life with the Creator’s purposes is to tap the source you need to manage yourself and find wisdom amidst adversity. The first step of that connection is to trust Jesus Christ with your soul.

Does counting on strength from outside yourself make religion a crutch? Well, religion may be a crutch, but Almighty God isn’t. The difference is relationship. To receive strength from knowing God isn’t a crutch. It is truth you embrace by simple faith.

Black’s family wrote in his 2022 obituary, “He lived his life guided by a simple faith in Jesus and his admonishment to love God, practice forgiveness and mercy to all who offend, and to care for the least of these. No one was a stranger to Baxter. Every person he met was a friend.” To live a life of love, forgiveness, mercy, and care takes enduring strength from God.

Perhaps he would approve of my few lines offered in his memory: “At the end, he lay down his cowboy frame; And heard Someone familiar call out his name. ‘Mount up on eagles wings,’ (not on a horse!). To fly to Jesus was his final course.” Baxter Black left for the land of the living. He was 77.

P.S. Don’t forget to wear your glasses more often!