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It Was A “Test” of Epic Proportions!

Well that might be exaggerating just a little bit….but at the time, ……and considering my ‘new’ standing in the Lord, it really was quite the test. It was in 1985 and my good friend, Danny Mason, invited me to judge his annual bull riding in Mineral Wells, Texas. It was a big event; lots of money up, and some of the best riders in the world were competing there. The crowd was huge. I’m standing inside the arena and Cade, my 2nd son who was about 3 at the time, was sitting in a box seat where I could do my judging job and also keep a close eye on him.

The first section of about 12 riders was completed, there was a 10 minute break and we were about to start the second section.About that time I hear a loud voice coming from the grandstands griping and cussing about the judging. Well , immediately, I assumed that it’s someone that I know just kidding, and giving me a hard time. But I finally saw the guy coming up the walkway to where I was…..and I’d never seen this guy before! He swiftly walked my way and into the box seat section where Cade was sitting…..still yelling and cussing at me. By now he’d drawn the attention of everyone at the event. If not for his yelling voice, you could’ve heard a pin drop….and every eye in the place is on us!

I said to him, “If you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me!” But he just kept on! Now, I’ve never considered myself a ‘fighter’ but I’ve also always had a resolve to not let anyone push me around, either. In professional rodeo in those days I had to ‘stand my ground’ many a time. And what made this situation even more difficult was the fact that my life had, just less than a year before, been turned around…..and I was growing in my relationship with the Lord. So I knew, to handle things how we used to handle them,….would not be the ‘right’ thing to do.

Still yelling and cussing at me, I told him again, “If you want to talk to me, you get down here and talk to me!” He’s by now leaning over the top rail on the fence and I somehow resisted the opportunity to knock him plumb out, like I would’ve done only a few years before. And without thinking….I grabbed the hat off his head and just whipped him over the head with it! I then pitched it behind him in front of the grandstand and most of the 300-400 people were laughing uncontrollably…..and all my friends….well, they were laughing harder than that! When I did that, I said to him, “Now, I’ve told you about three times….if you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me! You got anything to say to me?!” He pressed his lips together….shook his head “No”, picked up his hat (amongst all the laughter) and made his way into the distance!

Now that probably ain’t the best way to handle a situation like that….and I doubt that Jesus would’ve whipped him over the head with his hat…..but considering the alternative….I think I did pass the test!

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*If you like Rodeo Stories, you’ll enjoy these: 

*(click on highlighted link to read)

VIP #1 Booger Bryant

VIP #2 Sarge Cook

VIP #8 Monty Taylor

8378 Zulu…..And the Flight That Was Almost the Last One!

First Trip To Calgary

August 12….A Day That Lives in Infamy…..*at  Least For Me!

Avoid the Vending Machine, Microwave, Green Chile Burritos in the Albuquerque Airport At All Costs!

 

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There’s Grace For That!

I catch myself saying that quite a bit these days. I say it because it’s true. And it doesn’t matter what the situation or circumstances are….it’s always true….without fail. We had one of our young couples recently who miscarried. It’s a devastating event;  A little life so looked forward to and anticipated and planned for, little brothers and sisters who are excited about their new sibling;  Grandparents, aunts, and uncles who’ve already been shopping for the new little one….then all of a sudden…the stunning, paralyzing, news. I hurt deeply for the young couple because I know all too well the pain and heartbreak that just naturally ensues. That grief that comes is not proof that something’s wrong with us…..No!  Much to the contrary…..it’s proof that something’s ‘right’ with us! We’ve been there….done that and somehow lived through it. And the reason we lived…..there’s grace for that!

I just talked to a couple of brothers last night who had just, unexpectedly, lost their dad. He was in the hospital, serious but improving, then all of a sudden….he’s gone. I don’t have anything to compare to it. I just know that it’s one of those things that has the potential to hit the heart in the deepest place. I can’t help but be broken for my friends…..but they’ll be OK. They’ll be OK ’cause there’s grace for that too!

A young guy was in my office today. His wife had just informed him that she doesn’t love him anymore. He’s devastated; he has no answers….and his heart is broken in two. Then there are the kids…what’s going to happen with the kids? How can he explain this nightmare to them? I don’t know…..there’s so much I don’t know these days, but what I do know is….there’s grace for that too! ……and somehow the Father, and the grace that He freely gives will see them all through!

It doesn’t have to be a tragedy for grace to appear; whenever, however…..and for whatever grace is needed for……it’s always there….and there’s always enough of it. The Father knows what you need and He won’t keep you waiting!

Whatever you’re going through right now…..and whatever you need right now…….There’s Grace For That!

You might like this one too! (Click on the highlighted link to read)

It Ain’t Grace’s Fault!

 

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Now, If I Were a Lawyer…..

…..which I ain’t…..but I almost was. I went to college right our of high school on a rodeo scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. My grades were good enough but It was mostly all about college rodeo at the time and not much about education. Looking back…not very smart but it was what it was. We did have a very competitive team at Eastern. I was second in the bull riding in the  region with a lot of good bull riders….and our team was 3rd nationally at the College Finals in Bozeman, Montana. But after a year there I’d had enough of college life and headed back to the ranch and to rodeo full-time.

I started thinking about what I would do after rodeo. Actually, looking back, not many of my rodeo friends gave much thought of what they’d do ‘after’! Again, not wise, but it was mostly a fact. I had always had an interest in law and the whole legal system, even as a young adult. I remember watching every episode I could of Perry Mason, then later Barnaby Jones and every other TV show or movie about lawyers. So, I set my mind to pursue that kind of career. My plan was to get a business degree and then on to law school. I put rodeo on the back burner, for the most part. Got another rodeo scholarship to Southwestern State in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Took some summer school classes so I’d be eligible for the fall college rodeo run. All was going right on schedule, made the Dean’s Honor Roll in both my summer and fall classes. 

When the PRCA winter rodeos cranked up I went; Denver, Ft Worth, San Antonio, Houston. I could do that and not miss too much school. I rode good, but didn’t draw good at all and up until the Astrodome Rodeo in Houston I hadn’t won a dime. But the week following Houston I ‘hit a lick’! In rodeos in Montgomery, Alabama, San Angelo, Texas and Phoenix I brought home over $5000, which was quite a bit in those days (1976). It positioned me to make a good run to go to the National Finals Rodeo. I never went back to another class at Southwestern! Again, pretty dumb (seems like I keep saying that quite a bit!), but it was what it was. My run for the NFR was squelched when I got injured at Sidney, Iowa on August 12, resulting in major shoulder surgery.

I never again pursued a law career for a number of reasons. I still think about it every week, …..sometimes daily. I still watch whatever I can on TV and movies, I read nearly all of John Grisham’s books up to a point, and I have a few friends who are lawyers. I still enjoy picking their brains about their career, it still fascinates me.

I think I would’ve made a decent lawyer. and when I’m having a bad week it does still go through my mind to go back to school and get that degree. (dumb again! Way too far behind the curve now!) But, I guess, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Although there’s plenty of people who don’t think so……and at times I really wonder, myself. But, God has a way of getting us where He wants us to be.

So, in the meantime, I’ll just have to live that life vicariously through the few I know that are actually doing it. So, David K, Abby C., Michelle R., Deb M., James W., Lynn F. or Brian H…..if I get on your nerves (it could happen!) questioning you about what you’re doing….you have my permission to tell me to ‘back off’!

*Some great timing; finishing my blog and on the Today Show there’s a story on Dickie Scruggs, a lawyer who took on Big Tobacco…and won! I’ll be busy for a few minutes!

*You might like this one too! *(click on the highlighted link)

August 12… “A Day That Lives in Infamy”….at  Least For Me!

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You Can Live in the Past if You Want To…..But There Is a ‘Downside’

II’s not rare to see people who are living in the past, in fact it’s pretty common by my experience. By ‘living in the past‘ I mean that most of a person’s entire focus is directed on what’s happened before. There are those who live in the regrets and failures of the past…but then there are also those I see from time to time who live in the victories and triumphs of the past. Obviously focusing on victories and triumphs would be a more pleasant thing than focusing on failures…..but either way……..there’s a downside.

I was talking to a friend recently who talked a lot about the ‘bad things’ (his own words) he’d done in the past. He was constantly saying about himself things like….“I don’t deserve for God to bless me”, “I know I’m not good enough”, “I’ve done a lot of bad things”. You don’t have to look far to find those that are hung up on their past. And then on the other hand I often hear those who, for instance, had a successful career in sports and much of their talk is about how good they were. In most cases it was probably true but I’m pretty sure to be focused, even on the glory days, has a downside.

I’ve had my own issues and temptations to ‘live in the past’. And for me it seems mostly centered around mistakes I’ve made and regrets of  not doing things different than I could/should have. It can be a recurring thing for me so I have to discipline myself to ‘not stay’ in the past for very long periods of time or it becomes extremely counter-productive….to say the least.

But the most tragic thing I see of people living in the past is that if your focus is ‘back there‘, so to speak, you are missing out on something today! Our joy and contentment can never be fully experienced if we’re focused on the past. And even more serious is the reality that if you’re missing out on something today….your future is severely impaired.

Most everyone would agree that God has a plan for their life, and for those living in the past…….if something doesn’t happen to cause them to re-focus they’ll surely miss their destiny. We need to learn to live in the ‘now’! It might be profitable to glance back every now and then and learn from our mistakes but we should get our focus back where it needs to be as quick as possible…….and that is on the Lord….and His plan for our lives!

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VIP #9 – Art Harris

I first met Art Harris in October of 1988, our last year on the ranch north of Allison, Texas. I had been taking care of 2500 head of cattle for Art’s cousin from Munday, Texas. Art came down that day that we gathered the cattle. We were busy weighing cattle all that day and I didn’t get to visit a lot with Art ……but enough to know that I liked him a lot. Art had grown up in Seymour, Texas and was one of the best athletes to ever graduate there. He played football and basketball where he was a standout in both sports. He’s still known, admired and idolized around those parts just simply as, Art Lynn.

When we moved across the line into Oklahoma and we needed to find a bank I looked for Art…..and after I found him he would be our banker for the next 27 years. In that time we became very good friends. I’ve said often that Art was the last of the ‘old time’ bankers. That kind of banker that believed in you as a person and loaned money based on that premise. In fact, he actually loaned millions of dollars on exactly that! We bought a several houses (rental properties) over the years and just called Art after the fact. It was never a problem.

By 1997 Art had become a VP and loan officer and was heading up the branch in Sayre. We started Trinity Fellowship in a home and then moved to a small building on the south end of town. When we grew to about 35 people (on a good day) we started looking for another place. We landed on Walter Merrick’s property two miles east of town on I-40. The Merrick family was gracious to allow us to use the property with no rent from ’92 to ’97…..which was a good thing because we had no money

The property became available for purchase and there were some very interested people who had the means to buy it. But we felt that the Lord wanted us to have the property. After a lot of prayer we decided we should try to buy. I remember vividly sitting in Art’s office and telling him that we wanted to buy the property. Art said “Yes”, and the rest is history.

Why do I tell that story?? I tell it because Art Harris believed in us when there wasn’t much to believe in. In two years we had the property (100 acres on I-40) totally paid off. Art started coming to church with us along about that time and our friendship deepened even more.

A couple of years ago Art was diagnosed with cancer. It was a tough diagnosis with the doctors giving him 6 months to live. I was there at his house when he arrived from Oklahoma City after getting the discouraging news. We prayed and he vowed to fight it…which he did. There was a mixture of reports from the docs over the next year, some good …..some not. Three of us went to Dallas in December to watch the Texas state football finals games. Art tired easy and didn’t have a lot of energy but it was a great trip, nonetheless. It was only a few months later that he was promoted to heaven.

When I look back over the years since I’ve known Art it’s very obvious how much he’s helped the Taylor family……and the Trinity family, as well. There’s hundreds of stories out there just like mine….of people that Art believed in. and gave them a ‘leg up’.

He was my Friend! There’s no question about it for me…..Art Harris is definitely a VIP! …….and you wouldn’t have to look far to find a lot of other people who think so too!

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I Hardly Ever Ask the Lord for Patience!

It’s the truth! I’ve learned my lesson and learned it well. Definitely not asking the Lord for patience! And, don’t get me wrong….I do need a good dose of patience. I’m doing so much better than in the past but still have a long ways to go. But years ago, I’d say about thirty to be more specific, I did ask the Lord for patience…….but not anymore!

There was this person who came into my life; a friend, although I didn’t know him well. *(but got to know him very well!) He was going through an extremely rough spot in his life with finances, family, health….and you name it, he had it going on. I wanted to help and did a pretty decent job for a good while. But he was relentless. He’d show up at our place mid-morning and be there all day….and sometimes on into the evening hours….and occasionally way into the night. When he wasn’t there he’d be calling me on the phone. It became apparent that he was putting all his trust in me….and not the Lord. I know better now but in those early days walking with the Lord I didn’t know much of how to point someone to Him. And in my strong desire to help, I often found myself in these kinds of situations.

After months of this, non-stop, daily, almost continual barrage of hearing this person’s problems I was complaining to a close friend. His reply to my whining went pretty much like this, “Well, Andy I remember you praying for patience.” Whoa! The light bulb finally came on in my mind. He was right….months before, and more than once, I had prayed for patience. I needed it….and I was sincere when I prayed!

My experience is that when we pray for patience, God doesn’t just hand it over to us. Nope, much to the contrary; he allows us to be in, and go through, situations where we’ll learn patience. I mean, it’s OJT (On the Job Training) at it’s best. I think, for me, the Lord knew what I’d be doing later (a life of ministry), and how much I would need patience. He never makes any mistakes that way!

I’m still a long ways from perfection where patience is concerned and for most all the years since I first asked for it, I’ve been in some kind of situation where I could learn it to a deeper level. And, to each his own…..but, as for me, I ain’t asking the Lord for patience any more!

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Loyalty – A Forgotten Virtue

It’s not totally forgotten but you’ve gotta look pretty hard these days to find it. I’ve seen, in my fairly short time on the planet, loyalty wane by quite a bit. It used to be pretty common, but not anymore. It doesn’t really matter where you look. A lot of the old-timers are still pretty loyal to either their Ford, or Chevrolet pickups. When it comes time to buy, they go with what’s served ’em well for years. But the younger generation is not nearly as loyal. But that’s just one simple example.

I think one of the root causes of this lack of loyalty is due to the fact that, as people, (and especially Americans) we’ve been spoiled. We want what we want, we want it now, and if we’re not getting it, and the quality is not ‘up to par’ of what we expect…..we go elsewhere. It seems to be true whether we’re talking about your brand of peanut butter, a restaurant, a relationship you’re involved in……or the church.

As a leader, and I think I’m speaking for most of that group, you learn to appreciate loyalty whenever, …..and wherever you find it. For us loyalty, and having people that you know you can trust to ‘stick it out’ with you no matter what,…..means just about everything! The lack of it can be ‘crippling’, to say the least. Real, genuine leadership is a very lonely place to be at times and knowing you have even a few who are loyal to the ’cause’, makes a ton of difference.

Jesus had to deal with the whole loyalty issue Himself. After once saying something that not everyone agreed with there was an exodus of people who didn’t like what He said. He looked at the Twelve and said, (paraphrased) “Are you guys gonna leave too?”. Their answer, at least this time, was a good one; “Where would we go, Lord……for it is You Who have the words of life.” His disciples didn’t always get it right…but they did this time. For those guys, to ‘jump ship’ now would be to miss their destiny and the reason they were on the planet in the first place!

It’s one thing to change brands of orange juice if you continue to be disappointed in the quality…..but to bail on your church when the going gets tough is an entirely different issue. God has a ‘place’ for you. There’ll be plenty of mountains and valleys; plenty of mistakes made by leaders; plenty of times you’ll wonder if you’re on track or not. But if He’s placed you there you need to ‘stay hooked’ until you absolutely know otherwise. Don’t miss your destiny,….and the reason you’re on the planet to begin with, because of your disloyalty!

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You might like this one too: *(click on link)

Character Matters!

 

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A “Disposable” Relationship

That’s what I’d call my relationship with the Lord between 1974 to 1984. I didn’t grow up going to church. In fact, by the time I was thirty I hadn’t even been in a church much. I got saved in 1974. It was in an area-wide crusade in Wheeler, Texas about thirty miles from where I grew up. It was on the first night and I was by myself sitting on the very back row. When it came ‘invitation time’ I knew, somehow, that the Lord was dealing with me. I got up and took the long walk all the way to the front of the High School Auditorium and gave my life to the Lord. Some people gathered me up, took me to an adjoining room with several others who had made similar decisions and there they prayed with me.

It was legit. I mean it really ‘took’. I can still remember the days following that night. When I’d have a thought or say something that was out of the character of Jesus, I’d immediately know it. I now know that it’s just how the Holy Spirit works. Julie had a little paperback Living Bible (before we were married) that she gave me. I just started reading on page 1. I got over into the book of Leviticus and got bogged down in all those ‘begats’ and put it down and didn’t pick it back up. I was rodeoing at the time and didn’t have any Christian friends and drifted away from any real, ongoing, relationship with he Lord. Nobody’s fault but my own.

So for the next ten years or so my relationship with the Lord went pretty much like this. When I’d be in a jam of some kind in my life, I’d run to Him for help. But as soon as that dilemma was over I was back to ‘my own way’. So, in that sense, I had a disposable relationship with the Lord. I treated Him as some kind of ‘possession’ that I’d use whenever I needed and just ignore Him the rest of the time.

Looking back….the incredible part is that even though I really had no sincere devotion to the Lord…..He’d help me anyway! Pretty amazing, huh?! Maybe you find yourself in such a place. Don’t allow your relationship with Him to be ‘disposable’. Life can be so much better….but don’t take my word for it. Taste and see for yourself how good the Father is!

The words to one of my favorite songs goes like this; “One day every tongue shall confess you are God, one day every knee shall bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose You now”!

You just can’t go wrong!

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‘Betrayal’ – Nothing Easy About It!

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations. It’s a pretty conclusive and clear definition but it doesn’t even come close to describing the pain, emotional conflict and relationship devastation that nearly always ensues.

There’s no doubt about it…betrayal is one of the hardest things to endure in the human experience. And what can be even more discouraging is the reality that most of us, in the course of our lives, will find ourselves in that place…..that of the one who’s been betrayed. Where the relationships have been deep and strong the devastation is also deep and strong. Not much that I’ve experienced in my life compares to the pain of outright betrayal. It strikes at the very heart of ‘who’ we are and leaves us in a very weakened and vulnerable spot. That spot can be permanent if we don’t tend to our own hearts and walk our way out of it.

It’s a proven fact that ‘hurt people’…..’hurt people’! *People who are deeply hurt, if it’s not ‘fixed’, hurt others too. They end up living their entire existence out of the pain of betrayal. It’s a sad situation….but it happens a lot.  It can, and most often does, take years to fully recover. But it’s do-able, with the Lord’s help, and we should set our hearts to try.

The ‘real test’ actually comes after the incident of betrayal. The most vital question is not whether or not we can recover from our being betrayed…but can we recover to the degree that we can lay our whole heart out there again to trust….and love again? 

There’s no easy way to recover; at best it takes a long, long time. I do know that to run to the Lord is the right thing. His grace will help to lighten the load, after all, He knows all about betrayal……He overcame it….and so can you!

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“If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'”

I’m always on the lookout for quotes or phrases that I think’ll make a good blog title. I find good things everywhere but music offers an endless supply of great phrases. I have a great admiration for songwriters, especially the good ones. And if you’ve been reading my blogs up ’til now you know I’m way partial to Classic Country. I grew up on it….and whether you like it or not you gotta admit that the songwriters of that era had it goin’ on!

“If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'” was written by Tommy Collins and sang by Faron Young. (one of my very faves! *click to watch!) The song went to #3 on the Country Charts in 1954. George Strait (another fave! *click to listen) recorded it in ’88 and it went to #1…..like most everything else of his! But the song title, like a lot of others I notice, has some really profound spiritual truth if you just think about it.

It’s an eternal truth; Love is what makes the world go round. It never fails, at least that’s what the Book says. “Of these three abide faith, hope and love….but the greatest of them is love”. I could go on and on but the fact of the matter is that, whether he knew it or not, Tommy Collins nailed it right on the head.

Love is the essence of what our lives are all about…or at least what they ‘should’ be about. Starting with the Father’s love for each of us; It’s pretty incredible! He doesn’t love us because we’re good….He loves us because He’s good! And when we experience His love, firsthand, it changes us forever. And then along the way we begin the process of learning to love like He does…..unconditionally!

In a nutshell…we’re created to love…..and to be loved. There’ll be no lack of good excuses as to why we’re not loving others……but in light of God’s love toward us……none of them are valid. “If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'” The song simply says that you can have everything else that money can buy….but if you’re not lovin’, you’re missing out on what life is all about!

We should thank Tommy Collins, Faron Young and George Strait……they had it right!

If you liked this one…..Check these out:

*(Click on highlighted link)

God Loves You And There’s Nothing You Can Do About  It

Love  Gives

What’s Love Got  To  Do With It?

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