Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brothers Built for Adversity

Van played our rivals last week for the district championship.  On the morning of the game Layton woke up, throwing up.  The rest of my kids and my wife had the same bug earlier in the week and we were hoping Layton and Colt were going to avoid this virus.  Despite all of our precautions he was sick on Friday morning.  Layton tried to keep us from finding out and he went to school only to have the trainer call us an hour later saying we needed to come get him.   He lay in bed with a bucket by his side all day and when it was time to go to the fieldhouse he was still not himself, but he was determined to play.  My only advice to Layton was if you decide to play, decide to play as if you were 100% hold nothing back.  You know Layton did exactly that.  He played hard and ended up with an interception in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.

I couldn’t have been more proud of my son!  Not because he made an interception but because he played and because he played without moaning or complaining.  He denied himself and put his teammates ahead of his own needs, rose up, and met the challenge not for his own glory but for a bigger purpose.  To me, this encapsulates the essence of being a Godly man.   Godly men need to be willing to lay down their lives in small and big ways for the love of their fellow man.  They need to be ready to deny their flesh when their flesh is screaming “take care of me!”  Godly men are those who do what is needed and what is right regardless of circumstances.  They trust God to give them the strength needed to get the job done even when they feel weak and incapable.  While this game might be a small matter in the whole of a person’s life, Layton laid a few more stones in the foundation of Kingdom greatness by following our King’s example of laying down his life for his brothers.
Sign up for Champions Rodeo Camps

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


This morning I took a moment to look back.  I don’t do that very often but for some reason I just began to think of all of the amazing things God has allowed me to be a part of and I was a bit overcome.  I have been to Australia twice, I have been to Africa, I have won a lot of stuff, and I have seen great sights and made friends all over the world.  I have been truly blessed.  I am blessed.   The interesting thing is that the blessing was never the things I have done, the places I have been, or the stuff I have won.  The blessing has always been the PEOPLE  God has brought into my life while I was winning, going and doing.
  Now, I am often asked “are you still rodeoing?” or “are you gonna do anymore jousting?” and the answer is - I don’t know, but probably not.  When I tell people this they often look at me with a kind of sad look like “ah, that’s a shame” as if the awesome stuff I have been able to “do” was what made my life worthwhile when in fact the RELATIONSHIPS have been the true blessing.   In the truest sense of the word I am more blessed now than I have ever been.   Wow! I look around now at all of the incredible friends I have.  I see my amazing kids, and my awesome wife, and the rest of my family and I am floored at how blessed I am.  I have wise, trustworthy men who pour into me (Andy, Lynn, Herb, Dudley, Rob, Chris…).   I have true brothers who I can be real with (Cash, Charlie, Tim, Zach, Jared, David, Glen, Jesse, Ty, Cody, Al…).  I have people who allow me the great honor of speaking into their lives (wranglers, steer wrestling students, Champions Rodeo kids…).  I have an incredibly diverse group of friends who keep me connected to a diverse and amazing world (Josh, Joe, Shane, Chad, Jackie, Stran, Joey,  Bill, Sam, Jim, Hunter, Boyd, Matt…) My pastor says, “God counts His wealth in people,” so I am one of the richest men on earth! 


Thanks Father for bringing so many incredible people into my life and thanks to all of the people who have made my life so rich!


One final note, I wanted to list all of these awesome friends but I just keep thinking of more and more and I don’t want to leave any out so I am going to continue to add to this list even after I post this CTJ.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No Coasting

I recently spoke with a friend of mine who is a football coach, and he was saying how the team was at that point in the season where they were having a hard time staying focused at practice.  It is week seven of the season and while there are always a few new wrinkles in the offense and the defense, basically they are doing the same things they have been doing for two and a half months.  The team seemed to have kicked it into neutral - and while they were still moving forward, they were no longer moving forward with any purpose.  Coach said he understood how they felt because he was feeling the same thing- a certain weariness that sets in and it was becoming difficult to maintain the level of effort and concentration he once felt.  This feeling is actually elevated when things are going well.  His team is on a 4 game winning streak where they have beaten tough opponents and played better than expected.  So the team shows up but they are kind of going through the motions.  I know this feeling from my own life - things are going pretty well with my family, my friends, my relationship with the Father, and I begin to coast, I take my foot off of the accelerator, shift into neutral and begin to coast.  The thing about coasting is no matter how fast you are going to begin with, as soon as you start to coast you begin to decelerate, to slow down, to shut down, and as soon as you lose your momentum it takes a lot more force to get rolling again.   The fact that momentum lost is hard to regain is why every good coach fights so hard during the doldrums of each season to keep his team motivated, focused, and ready for the challenges that lie ahead. He knows he will eventually meet the opponent that requires all the momentum his team can muster if they are to overcome.  It needs to be the same way in our personal and spiritual lives.  When things are good we cannot afford to take our foot off of the gas.  If life has taught us anything it should be to recognize that there is trouble around the next bend and we just may need a vibrant connection with the Father to get through it. 

The Israelites were always going through this cycle.  They would experience a time of struggle, then turn their hearts to God and He would bring about a great victory. Inevitably the Israelites would begin to coast and before you knew it they would once again be in a mess.  I know this is the cycle I find in my own life if on a smaller scale.  I struggle, and somewhere in the struggle my Father encourages me, strengthens me and gets me headed, once again, in the right direction. Then when everything seems to be going just fine I become weary and I coast and then I am “surprised” when I find myself in a new mess. 

The problem is we peek at the scoreboard.  We seem to have the “game” well in hand, our opponent seems defeated, our life (substitute: marriage, job, schoolwork, raising our kids…) is running smoothly.  Why shouldn’t we just take it easy?  But we must remember that the opposition, while defeated, is constant.  Even when Jesus was tempted in the Wilderness, after He defeated the Devil three times, the Devil left Him alone until “a more opportune time” (Luke 4:13).   I am not suggesting we need to be freaked out that the Devil is after us - I am merely saying we need to (1 Peter 5:8) 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  The guys I know who are great Champions never know the “score”.  They are just as tough when they are being blown out as when they are blowing someone else out.  They are resolute regardless of the situation.  Champions keep doing what they have been called to do and they always continue to improve.  We need to keep our hands on the wheel and our foot on the accelerator.  This is no time to let up.  Now is the time to keep pressing toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Candice and I saw the movie Courageous last night.  The movie was powerful and very timely for me.  For several years I have wanted to start a ministry for dads at Sky -Sky Dads- and recently we have begun to step in that direction.  As with anything like this, if you prayerfully plan an offensive move like helping dads reach their full potential as Kingdom parents, you can expect to encounter some opposition from the other side.  Recognizing this is a great catalyst to take stock in how I am doing as a dad. Between the movie and some discussion with my wife afterwards I am reminded again of just how far I have to go to be the kind of dad I need to be for my kids and my wife.  You know sometimes I think my biggest problem is thinking I am a “pretty good dad”.  I show up, I talk to them, tell them I love them, I am faithful… but I fall sooo incredibly short as a dad.  My praise is qualified, my wisdom sounds condescending, my encouragement lacks patience, my prayers lack consistency, my help has a hook…  While I may be trying to do the right thing as a dad or as a husband, I find the very things I thought were helping are actually sometimes hindering my family.  Luke 6:45 says “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”   While I may be trying to bring forth good, I keep seeing bad results (i.e. I answer a question but I do it in a way that makes someone feel dumb, I correct but I do it in front of someone else so it embarrasses, or I praise them but qualify the praise with a “but”…).   So the old excuse of good intentions is no longer valid.  I want to be a great dad - not so that I will be known as a great dad but so my kids can have a less distorted view of the Father.  I want to be a “good” man, but this verse makes it pretty plain that if I am still bringing forth hurt, discouragement, and sorrow then that must be what is in abundance in my heart. 

Father, please forgive my pride and foolishness.  Pride for thinking I was a good dad and foolishness for thinking “I” could accomplish that goal.  I pray that You would renew my heart within me and let the books I read and the times I study fill my heart with love and compassion instead of filling my mind with facts.   Make me into the kind of man my family needs -one that not only desires to raise them well, but one that actually get it done. Amen

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Taking My Legs

In sports there is the idea of taking the “legs” of your opponent.  It means to discourage them or to dishearten them to the point they no longer have any sense of hope or optimism and they become easy to defeat.  I feel like the enemy knows just how to “take my legs”.   He simply waits until I do or say something foolish around or to my wife and kids, then he amplifies it and uses this failure to bring discord between my wife and I.  Nothing takes my legs more than a quarrel between Candice and me.  I feel pretty much unable to add anything of much value to any conversation, or circumstance I find myself in.  I am not sure it should be this way but it is.  I know Jesus is our source of power and strength but nothing leaves my feeling quite as disconnected from the power source as a spat with my wife. 

                How do you get our legs back?  It is extremely hard in sports and likewise it is difficult in our personal life.  I am not sure I can even speak to this all that well as I am still trying to figure it out.   However, I have learned a few things.  In basketball, football, and baseball you have to go back to the basics and focus on the next thing, (possession, play, at bat…) then find something positive to build on, and sometimes those small sparks can reignite the individuals and the team.  In our personal lives it is much the same.  If we return to the fundamentals like prayer, getting quiet, doing something to help, or encouraging someone those small kindnesses sometimes give us something positive to build on and maybe before we know it the wind is back in our sails and we have our legs back to continue running this race set before us. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Being a Football Dad Without Being a "Football Dad"

My son Layton tore it up a couple of weeks ago when the Vandals beat the Lindale Eagles.  He shut down a really good receiver, had some amazing open field tackles, and basically played like an animal.  My son Holden had his first seventh grade game recently too and he did great.  He had an interception, and caught two passes for 35 yards.   In Texas, football is king and in small towns it certainly feels that way.  I have probably had 15 people I barely know tell me this week how good my boys played.  I am excited they are doing so well, but am really asking God  to keep me from being one of those dads that lives and dies with every play.  I hear them in the stands - questioning every call made by ref and coach alike.  I see them stalking practices like a scout. I don’t want to be “that” dad, but I see I could be that dad in an instant.  I have coached my kids in at least one sport a year since they were in kindergarten.  I have been to the games where they had their greatest triumphs and to the games where they have had their greatest defeats.  So, how do you pull back?  How do you become one of  those great dads who is cheering their kid and his team on and not cheering “their” team on?  How do you let go?  I always want my boys to know I am behind them, but I also want them to know that THEY take the field.  “We” are not playing this Friday.  “They” are.  “We” didn’t win last week.  “He”, his teammates and coaches did. 
You know, our Father is like this. He cheers us on.  He is always there for us in both victory and defeat, but our Father never insists on any of the credit.  He watches and He cheers, but He cheers just as loudly in the defeat as He does in the win.  Our Father remembers He is growing a man and not a football player.  God, I want to be THAT kind of football dad.  I want to cheer them on.  I want to keep it all in perspective.  I want to be as excited about the valiant effort as I am about the victory.  I want my boys to make great memories and I want any memories they have of me related to football to be of me smiling from the stands.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wearing Pink, Feeding Bunnies and Other Manly Endeavors

Last year my wife bought me a pink (actually Hot Pink) polo shirt and I hadn't worn it until church this past weekend-- not because I didn't like the shirt, but because I knew I would receive some flak from my friends for wearing it.  Sure enough - we no sooner got to Sunday school and a friend of mine poppped off about my nice pink shirt.  You know during the day I had 5 different girls of all ages say how much they liked my shirt and 4 guys gave me a hard time.  Also this week, my son found a nest of baby rabbits that were kicked out in the open when we were hauling off some limbs.  Our dog ate two of them (much to the horror of my daughter) but the lone survivor became a rescue project.  So, I found myself twice daily trying to get this little rabbit to drink 5ml of milk replacer (with little success), then rubbing a warm washcloth across its belly trying to get it to “go”.  While doing these things or while playing "babies" with my 21 month old daughter, I thought, "boy, you are a really tough jouster".   
Guys doing “guy things” like jousting and steer wrestling and wearing brown plaid - that is what it means to be a man, right?  Men are to be tough and strong and silent -right?  Or maybe to be a man it means doing what is needed without fear or complaint - doing what those around you need you to do.  Sure men need to do the “manly” things like killing a snake or a bug, working overtime to pay for an unexpected bill, or stepping up to coach the team.  But what if the “need” is not so gloriously tough?  What if the need is what the world might even call soft.  Does your family need someone to cook dinner, or do the dishes, or to play dress up…?  Men - real men- do what is needed.  They do what is needed without complaint, without fear, and without compromise.  I am blessed to be around some real men. They are men who will not just run the grill, but will help clean up afterwards.  They are real men who play with their kids - not out of a sense of duty but because they like them.  They are men who serve their families without acting as if they are owed something for simply doing what was needed.

So, if you want to know what I have been up to since the show, I have been doing some real “manly” things, like feeding bunnies, playing babies and wearing pink!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Now What?

What do you do the day after...? We all have something in front of us we are moving toward- a goal, or dream we are working towards.  But what happens when the time for that goal or dream has run its course? "I want to be valedictorian", "I want to get my High School diploma", "I want to get married", I want to be promoted."  Whatever the goal or dream there will come a day when you either reach the peak of that mountain or the window to climb closes and the question is "now what?".  It is like what happens to all who climb Mount Everest as soon as you reach the top you take a couple of pictures then you head back down.  But you know that is not how Kingdom life is intended to be.  While in the Kingdom as a son or daughter of God you will have good and bad days, but the Life we live in Christ is to be a perpetual assent.  We are to be like Abraham who spent his life passing through the land looking for a home whose maker and builder is God.  Everyone knows we can't stay in today when tomorrow comes no matter how good today was.  People look forward to their wedding day, graduation day, birthday... only to find when it gets here it is quickly past and they are left feeling forlorn.  However in the Kingdom, each new day is another few steps down the path with our Father and, while on the outside the steps taking you down some public path like FMJ might seem better, a private walk with our family and our King is just as awesome. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winning Ugly

In the movie White Men Can’t Jump Woody Harrelson’s character tells Wesley Snipes’ character, “You would rather lose pretty than win ugly.”  I think this is true of most people.  Our pride makes it somewhat easier to be Matt Hiltman and lose an epic match than to be me and win while being called pathetic on national TV.  I know for myself I felt pretty disappointed in how I competed in the $25,000 match.  The question is “why do we feel this way”?  Over the course of my career in steer wrestling, it has happened more than once – I’ve made terrible runs on a great steers and still end up winning, or slammed a bad one and ended up one place out of the money.  Still, it feels better slamming the bad one.  Do we not like winning ugly because we didn’t do our best or is it because we don’t like to look bad?  In other words, is it just pride which inspires such disgust when our results are good but our showing was poor?   While I think our pride partly describes this feeling I think there is something else there as well, something deeper that strikes right at the core of our humanity.  You see when even our worst efforts succeed, the vanity and futility of this world is brought into focus.  After all our best doesn’t always succeed and worst sometimes does.  What can be more futile than that?  This moment brings into clear focus the shallowness- the vanity of our best efforts.  It reminds me of the way Solomon felt in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes when he wrote,  “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind”.  I think God wants to bring us to this point whether by “losing epically” or by “winning ugly”.  God wants to bring us to the end which makes us ask “is this all there is?” He wants to awaken in all of us a longing for something real, something transcendent, something eternal.  Then maybe by awakening this longing we may look and see Him- The Ultimate Reality, The One Who Transcends Time and Space, The Eternal One.  I pray for all those who read this-- that you would have a sincere and genuine experience with Jesus Christ, that the Father of lights Himself would become known to you.  And I pray that upon meeting Him your life would become the epic, incredible adventure that your heart has longed for.  I pray the God of Heaven would begin to answer all of your questions, would begin to heal every wound, and would begin to fill every void in your life.  I pray all of your deepest hopes and dreams find their ultimate fulfillment in Him and that each one of you realize all of the potential the Father placed on the inside of you.  I pray you have peace in the midst of storms; courage in the midst of fear; humility in the midst of arrogance; and grace in the midst of judgment.  Finally, I am thankful for the awesome opportunity of knowing such amazing men as the ones I met on FMJ and I pray I have in no way hindered their pursuit of the Father.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Our annual Easter steer wrestling clinic was this past weekend and it made me think again that the FMJ cast would make good steer wrestlers.  In fact I tried to get them to come to my clinic.  From the time I was a little boy I have looked forward to the steer wrestling schools.  My dad started teaching one every Easter and every Thanksgiving in 1969.  I took them over myself in 1991,  so for the past 21 years I have been teaching guys of all ages, abilities, and experience how to bulldog.  I have several friends who teach other events in rodeo and we are always amazed at the students who show up wanting to “show” us how well they rope, steer wrestle, ride… I mean they pay us to learn and yet they really just want to show off.  I say teaching steer wrestling has a real advantage, because when a student doesn’t want to change I can just make sure he runs the steers that make it clear he needs change.  Steer wrestling can be incredibly humbling.  For instance, I have run over a million steers on the ground and one kicked me and ran over me just yesterday.  Jousting is humbling in the same way.  You can do everything right and the other guy can do some things wrong - -  he parries, knocks your lance off target and he hits on target leaving you wondering where it all went wrong.  True humility is a good thing.  The problem is that although a humbling experience can produce true humility it can also produce a false humility.  True humility is defined as, "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." St. Bernard   The word comes from the Latin humilitas, meaning “grounded”, which has at its root humus ,  meaning “earth” or “dirt”.  True and false humility share this beginning- this sense that we are “dirt”. However, this is where the similarities end.  True humility realizes we are a mess, realizes we have shortcomings and failures and then realizes that the only way to overcome these shortcomings and failures is to let God have the access He needs to our lives so He can begin to transform our mess.  False humility, on the other hand, starts by agreeing we are a mess, then settles into an acceptance that the mess is the final state of things. In so doing, it actually exalts itself by saying the mess is the end and nothing and no one can do anyting about it.  False humility says “I am  just stupid, I will always be stupid”. False humility says “ I did wrong but I can’t help it...” it says, “I’m a cheater, but I was made that way”.  You see as Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:48-49 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.  True humility freely admits our shortcomings but continues to submit those shortcomings to the only one (God) who can do much about them. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting Beat Stinks

Getting Beat Stinks

I don’t think anyone likes losing but I’m pretty sure I dislike it more than most. Getting beat on Full Metal Jousting wasn’t any fun.  When I realized I had lost, realized I had failed, my heart sank in my chest.  Of course when your heart is down all sorts of negative thoughts and emotions begin to take hold.  Excuses, complaints, doubts, what-ifs…all of these and more begin to rush in.  While I don’t know if it is possible to keep the thoughts from rushing in, I do know that it is possible to make sure those thoughts don’t hang around.  In a way real defeat only happens when we invite one of those thoughts to take up residence.  When I decide to take an excuse (no matter how valid) and claim it as my own, or I choose to complain about the outcome, or I get stuck in a never-ending parade of what-ifs then I become truly defeated.  So, what do I do?  The first thing that has to happen is I have got to get my heart out of my belly and back into my chest, and the only way I know to do that is to begin to think about God and to let Him know how much I dislike what just happened.  Then, as my thoughts begin to arise I try to honestly assess what took place.  I think about what I did right and where I can improve. (Note: if you try to assess what happened before you get your heart back up you will only see the negative and that is deadly.)  Finally, with my heart back in my chest and an honest assessment of what happened, I can begin to look ahead.  You see, this looking forward is what all of those negative thoughts are trying to avoid.  They want to keep us stuck to this failure in the past to rob us of any future success.  I certainly want to learn from the past but I can’t live there.  So, I take a quick peek in the rear-view mirror, learn what I can, and with God’s help I begin to prepare myself for what lies ahead.
Finally, I want everyone who reads this to know that I like Josh Avery.  He is a gifted, competitive young man with a heart of a champion that cares for his family and friends.  In my book that makes him a good guy.  So, please stop with the Avery bashing.  And keep watching…

Friday, March 30, 2012


courage n. The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution;
fearlessness n. without fear; not afraid; brave

Many men are fearless - or at very least they are fearless when endeavoring to do something dangerous.  They jump out of planes, flip motorcycles, ride bulls, and joust, all without the slightest hesitation.   While these actions may be quite fearless, it’s not always obvious if the men who engage in them are courageous.  The world is full of men who fearlessly conquer in business and sports, men who conquer women and even their children.  However, many times the collateral damage is quite extensive.  They receive the promotion but their colleagues feel manipulated.  They win an MVP award but their team is bumped out in the first round.  They date beautiful women but often find themselves alone.  Their kids are successful but they won’t speak to them.  You see every little boy has been told time and again to not be afraid, so many have learned to ignore their feelings and to basically attack anything within their heart that is weak or fearful.  While it is true that young men need to face their fears, facing your fears is quite different than shutting up your heart and ignoring those fears altogether.
Courage is quite different. While most courageous actions are fearless, many fearless actions wouldn’t be described as courageous.  A current popular television show includes the hosts participating in ridiculous stunts and pranks - definitely fearless, but not necessarily courageous. Courage is the spirit that rises up within us to meet and overcome the fear - not for the sake of overcoming the fear but for the sake of something larger, something better.   Courage recognizes the danger, but rises up to overcome the fear - not with brute force but with self possession, confidence and resolution.  Courage enables the young man to resist his peers.  “Being fearless” will be used by his peers to make him fall in line. (i.e. “take a drink - what are you, scared?”)  Courage will cause a man to run to the fire for the sake of those being burned.  Courage will keep a young woman at peace in the middle of a thunderstorm so as not to scare her child.  In his own way Paul Suda demonstrated courage in last week’s joust. Even though he was a bit afraid of getting hurt before the match, he still got back on his horse when his chances of winning were eliminated, and entered the list against Josh Knowles.
            This subject makes me think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He wasn’t fearless, He was courageous.  He knew the trial that was before Him and He sweated blood. He wanted that cup to pass from Him but nevertheless He courageously drank from the cup so that we could have that same courageous Spirit inside of us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Enemies to Friends

I first met Mike Edwards during training week for Full Metal Jousting and I, like many of my fellow teammates, had the initial reaction of “what about ‘this guy’?”! However, as training week continued, my opinion of him began to change. I began to see a bit beyond the Mohawk and the tight pants to the man underneath. He was a man who, like most of us, was trying to make his way through this world.  Then during the first episode Mike suffered his first defeat and quite frankly didn’t take it too well.  Probably due to some of the things in his past, that first loss set like curdled milk on Mike’s stomach. Consequently, Mike spent the next week belly aching and “vomiting” on those around him.  Couple this with the fact that a deserving man like Jack didn’t get picked to fill Brian’s spot and you can see why the black team was not exactly excited to have Mike on our side. (Side note: the black team did cheer for Mike even if the show made it seem as though we did not.)  Upon finding out Mike would be on our team we immediately began to get him suited up for his joust with Nathan.  It seemed like trading for Kobe right before a playoff game against the Lakers - this was the face of the Red team.  This was a guy with a personality you could either like or hate but one you certainly couldn’t be indifferent about.  By this time in the competition, the black team members had really begun to embrace living like brothers, and we felt that the coaches and producers had just stuck a fly in our ointment.  Would we be able to get along and be productive with this new element in the house?  Would we be able to bring Mike into the fold or would we begin to divide like the red team had?  So, these were the thoughts in my mind as we went down to help him suit up.  As I reached the locker room door I knew we had to put all of this behind us, take him in and make him a part of the team.  So I shook his hand and looked him in the eyes and told him that while Jack was our pick, we would, from that moment on, consider him part of the black team.  We were going to bash with him in practice, respect each other, and have each others’ backs.  While it took a little time, over the next few weeks Mike found a place on the black team and we found a teammate in Mike.  By the end of our time together I again saw the man on the inside of Mike - the one behind the muscles, tattoos, and Mohawks - a guy just trying to do right just trying to make his life count.  I respect that guy and I am glad he was on our team.  And I am glad our team was strong enough to be able to take him in and continue to be unified. 

In writing this I am reminded of Romans 5:10  And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends and he is living within us! (Living translation)  We need to be reminded of this in our churches and in our families.  It is only in taking in our enemies that we can ever have them as friends.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Joust?

Many times as I prepared to be a part of FMJ I was asked by those closest to me why I was doing it.  I had lots of answers why; “the money would be great for my family,” “it will give me a bigger platform from which to talk to people about God,”  “it will help me with my rodeo camps at Sky Ranch,” and more.  While all of these reasons may be somewhat valid they were not what was really at the heart of the matter.  In my heart I found myself really wanting to joust  - wanting to meet this challenge.  My wife signed me up to do this and I have often kidded with her about that.  But when she signed me up she only did it because she thought I would be good at it and she thought it would be good for me.  She knew if I was picked for the show it meant she would have to take care of the kids alone for over a month while trying to work and get all four of them where they needed to go.   She knew all of this and while I am sure if I win the $100k she will be excited and she will find some cool ways to spend some of the money, the financial prize wasn’t her motivation.  The same way my motivation- my heart- was not focused on any of these secondary things.  Now I know some of you may be thinking “well all of these secondary things -  aren’t they supposed to be the ‘first’ things?”  “Isn’t telling people about Jesus supposed to be the ‘first’ thing on your agenda?”  But you see, that is just it -  I am not even supposed to have an agenda.  I am simply to follow God and He leads us by our heart.  In fact the minute those other things become my motivation then I become outcome-oriented and everything I do becomes a means to an end.  Then cooking breakfast for my fellow competitors would have been about “winning them to Jesus” instead of about filling our bellies before we jousted all day.  Then jousting would have been about “having a bigger platform” instead of being about challenging my own heart.   What if Candice had signed me up because she wanted the $100k or even because she wanted us to be able to “reach more people”?  That would have been at the very least burdensome, and at worst, manipulative.   But when we just do what is in front of us with an honest heart - do what is in front of us because we just really want to - then we give God the room to do the parts that are really His to begin with.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ya Gotta Love a guy like Matt Hiltman

What may not necessarily be evident on the show is how intelligent Matt actually is.  He is a college student, majoring in philosophy with minor in Psychology and he will surprise you with what he knows about most subjects that come up in conversation.  Many times when you meet guys that are pretty cerebral they sometimes make things more difficult instead of keeping things simple.  The ability to keep things simple is something of a lost art.  Matt is one of those rare guys who seem to have the ability to quiet their mind and do the task in front of them without fighting their head. We live in a world where the day we face each morning is usually complicated, confused, and sometimes insane.  Yet the second this world pulls us into the insanity, confusion, and complication we are pretty unfit to do anything to change it.  Which is why I like a guy like Matt - he can face the storm, quiet his mind, and deliver.  There are some dull men out there who are all aggression, all testosterone, and no brains, and while they may be able to get the job done with that makeup, there is usually a lot of collateral damage.  No, as men we need to be able to thoughtfully, skillfully, and cleverly meet the challenge that rises to meet us - not simply whack it over the head and drag it to the cave.  So how do we operate in this complex world and keep it simple enough to resist being overcome with the problems in it?  I think the answer was demonstrated by Matt.  He kept focusing on the next step in front of him.  He “took no thought for tomorrow.”  This is what we all need to do - focus on the next 5 seconds and try to live it well, and repeat…

*Matt Hiltman is currently co-starring with Rope on History's Full Metal Jousting.  Matt secured a convincing victory for the black team in the 4th preliminary round of the jousting competition.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012



Webster’s dictionary says to encourage is “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope; to spur on; to give help or patronage to”- in other words to empower or embolden someone to do that which is set before them.

To inspire with courage, spirit or hope.  I love that.  To fill with real courage not false bravado.  To inspire the spirit not to just leave them with a positive mental image.  To foster hope even in the midst of despairing circumstances.  That is encouragement.  In order to really inspire courage you have to be willing to walk with someone for awhile.  We can’t think the Waterboy was all that encouraged by the guy in the stands yelling “You can doooo it” and neither should we expect our friends who are facing tough circumstances will be spurred on that much  by a passing Facebook post.  It is not that those things aren’t good it is just that they fall short of what a friend really needs. 

During the third episode of Full Metal Jousting, Joe drew a tough opponent in Josh Avery and coming into the practice before his joust he had done okay, but was still a little bit unsure if he would be able to hit hard enough to be successful.  Now as the black team we could have used all of the encouraging words we knew and it might have helped a bit, but what Joe really needed was for his teammates to enter the list* with him and give him our best while we received his best.  You see true encouragement is best given shoulder to shoulder, not face to face.  It is easier to believe a friend next to you in the huddle than it is to believe your coach on the sidelines, unless the coach has been right there with you sweating through two-a-days. 

And that is one of the best things about Jesus - He was in the boat with them when they were freaking out, saying “fear not”.  He didn’t give them that bit of advice from the shoreline.  If we want to be encouraging to someone, and if we follow the Father’s example as we should, we are going to need to enter the list to really be able to inspire courage, spirit and hope.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friend Down

It is tough watching a buddy go down!

Many times I have watched my kids or my friends compete when it didn't go the way I, or they, expected. They entered the arena of competition talented, prepared, focused, and willing, yet the outcome didn't go their way. Still no matter how many times it happens, it always hurts my heart to see it. It hurts because it reminds us of something we know to be true but is seldom said - "life doesn't always work out the way we think it should". The lance sometimes knocks your friend out of the saddle, the final shot sometimes rims out, your kid may fly out in the last inning instead of knocking one over, and even with the best doctors, a good friend may still die of cancer. Sobering thoughts - maybe even sad thoughts, but real nonetheless. Life in this world is hard, sometimes really hard, but as a friend of mine says "hard as compared to what - death?" Maybe we need to remember in the midst of the heartache that at least we were in the game.

A few years ago, my son Layton was in a big baseball tournament in Dallas against a tough team from the Metroplex. With our team of nine year olds down two runs, two men on and two men out, Layton stepped to the plate in the last inning. With two strikes on him he hit a hard shot to right center field. While we were rising to our feet to celebrate, we watched the right fielder sprint over and make an amazing catch to end the game (and crush my son). My heart was broken for him but I was also extremely proud. Layton had stepped to the plate and swung. He hadn't shrunk from the heat of the moment. He had risked heartache and failure, and even though he hadn't succeeded he had experienced something many never will - the thrill of life- real life! Afterwards, I told my son what I feel the Father is telling us, which is to be thankful for the chance to be in the game.. (Jack) be thankful you got to enter the thankful for being able to take the thankful for stepping into the batters thankful for the time I had with my friend. For while these moments really hurt they also are the very spice that really makes life worth living.
 Watch Full Metal Jousting on the History Channel
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Full Metal Jousting- Getting Picked

What is it about being picked for teams that makes even grown men whimper?  Picture sixteen tough jousters desperately hoping that they are not the last one picked for a team….  As we all stood their waiting to hear who would be the first pick, I was analyzing the situation - wondering who it would be.  When my thoughts were interrupted by the realization that he had picked me! Immediately an entire new set of emotions began to take hold.  It is pretty nerve wracking to be chosen first. Being chosen first includes the responsibility that we feel to make the choice valid.  Some people will remember good first picks but everyone remembers bad first round picks (i.e. Ryan Leaf).  So, I found a small measure of anxiety beginning to come over me as the gravity of being chosen first began to set in.  Then I realized that this wasn’t the first time I was “picked first”.  That’s exactly what God did.  It has been said many times by better men than I that we were chosen by God- picked as it were- to be in Christ Jesus- to be on His team so I won't recover that ground.  However, I wonder if we don't secretly hope Jesus picks us somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I mean we don't want to think God chose us last like “alright I guess I will go ahead and take Rope.”  But, we also aren't comfortable with the thought that we might be chosen first. “Oh, great!” we think, “He picked me first - now I suppose he wants me to excel on His team.”  The thought of being a part of some enterprise bigger than ourselves is cool, but the thought of being an integral part of that enterprise is a bit intimidating.  This is why people love to cheer their teams on from the stands but would be scared to death to have any of the jobs on the sideline or on the field.  Ultimately, it really is true, God chose you first. You are His first pick, His number one draft choice.  Let that sink in for a moment… Before you become too overwhelmed with the thought "why in the world would He pick me - - I don't know what I am doing",  relax with the truth that He who has begun this work in you is able to finish the work and deliver you complete and perfect in Him.

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Check out Full Metal Jousting on the History Channel

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Full Metal Jousting- Preview

 As many of you may now already know I recently took part in the reality show Full Metal Jousting.  I am sure this has provoked all kinds of questions.  Like... What is he thinking? Is he wearing makeup in that picture?  Did it hurt?  Did you win? and many others.  Some of the questions I can answer ( yes that is makeup,) others I can't (no I can't tell you if I won it) but I thought it might be fun to give a running commentary here of what the Father showed me while I was on the show.
Full Metal Jousting on the History Channel
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