Thursday, November 22, 2012

Author Stephen Bly with horse and chaps
Stephen Bly

Stephen Bly


Robert Jack lived right down the road. He called me Butch and I called him Junior. We discovered we agreed on almost everything ... Dwight David Eisenhower and the New York Yankees, Dodge pickup trucks and quetta nectarines, Coca Cola and International Harvester Tractors, Daisey BB guns and High Noon. But Junior never concurred with me about horses or rodeo. He insisted horses were dumb and useless and that folks who did rodeo were too stubborn and stupid to stay safe and healthy.

But rodeo has taught me important truths.

1.) For some folks, life can seem like an 8-second ride. The secret is holding on until you hear the buzzer.

Some of you are riding bad bulls. A rocky marriage. A job that's wearing you down. No job at all. A strange storm of circumstances. If you let go, you get trampled. But one day when you reach eternity's door, your whole life on earth will seem like an 8-second ride. So, hang on.

Saint Paul said it this way: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

rodeo cowboy steer wrestling2.) If you break the barrier, you pay the penalty.

In steer wrestling, the steer's given a head start. The cowboy can't chase until the animal crosses through the taut string. God warned of His barriers. He put them there to keep you safe ... and at times to test your loyalty.

Galatians 6:7 states: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

3.) Tie 'em tight.

Calf roping's my favorite event, mainly because of the beauty of watching well-trained horses. When the calf's feet are tied, the horse holds the rope in place until the cowboy remounts. Sometimes this requires two loops, so the knot doesn't come loose. Use the same ropes that God does.

"I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love...." (Hosea 11:4) Tie them tight with bonds of love. No matter what, keep on loving ... through the rebellion and tears, the tests and the years. Who is that someone for you?

4.) The turns are more important than the straightaways.

Barrel racers run a twisting pattern. They gain or lose seconds by how the horse navigates the 8-shape curves around the barrels, without knocking one down. In real life, it's not how you perform when the going's easy, it's how well you do with the trials.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. For it you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?" (Matthew 5:44,46) Loving an enemy -- that's a tough twist. Loving those who love you -- that's a straightaway. Anyone can do that. It's the turns that count most.

rodeo bull rider painting by Russell Bly5.) The wilder the ride, the better chance of winning.

Bareback riding. Saddle bronc riding. Bull riding. What animal you get is the luck of the draw. The cowboys who want to win celebrate if they get the ones who buck off the most riders. Is that crazy or what? But if they stay on, they get a higher paycheck.

Here's the way James 1:2 puts it: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials." Why? Because it's the rough rides, the trials, that demonstrate your discipleship. "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

6.) There are some things in life you can't do by yourself.

Team ropers require both good headers and heelers. Each member of the team has a unique position and skill in the competition. It takes them all.

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor" (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

7.) If you fail to mark, you lose.

Cowboy rodeo roperSaddle bronc riding, the classic event, is a skill used on every ranch in America. The riding hand and the single rein, attached to the bronc's halter, must be on the same side. A rider is disqualified for bucking down, changing hands, losing a stirrup, touching himself or the horse or equipment with the free hand. The secret is balance and how long a lead to give the rein. If it's too short, you get pulled right over the top of the horse. If it's too long, you can't reach high enough to take up the slack.

 But the most important part of the challenge is to avoid the flag at the gate. That happens if the mark's missed coming out ... the rider must have his spurs over the break of the bronc's shoulders when the bronc's feet touch the ground, first jump out of the chute. If that doesn't happen, he's disqualified. It's the rules.

Jesus said it this way: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6). No matter how well you do in life, no matter how wonderful everyone thinks you are, no matter how many good deeds you accomplish, if you miss the mark, you lose.

"He who has the Son has the life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:12). That's God's mark and He is the final Judge.

Have you ever been to a rodeo? If so, what is your favorite event and why?

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