Bull Riding, part 2

One of my favorite things to talk about regarding my past is bull riding. To me it’s a normal thing but when I mention it to others I love taking in their reaction. Sometimes they give me a look that I can tell they are questioning my sanity and wondering if I’m stable mentally. I prefer not to answer that question… This story has come out many times but it typically comes out when people ask me how I became a Christian. Let me explain…

So, how did you become a Christian?

When people discover that I’m a pastor at a local church they will typically ask me how I became a follower of Jesus and what led me to become a pastor. Truthfully, bull riding played an integral part in both of those decisions. I didn’t grow up in a very “Christian” like household so I’m not really your typical preacher story. To be honest, I kind of like it that way. Knowing exactly what it’s like to not have any “religious” background has worked to my advantage in breaking the status quo churches often have that handicaps their vision of reaching the world.

I became a follower of Jesus after I met a couple guys riding at a local rodeo that just seemed so different to me. When they fell off their bulls, even if they didn’t make the 8-second buzzer, they always knelt down and prayed. It intrigued me so I asked them about it… Uh oh! Before I knew it one of them was calling me every Tuesday to ask how I was doing and to “pray” with me over the phone. It was so weird at first but I kept on letting it happen. There was something that wowed me about a guy calling to take the time and pray for me. But that’s what followers of Jesus do; they care for others.

It didn’t take long before I accepted Jesus into my life and started asking Him what He wanted me to do with my life. Through a very long journey I discovered it was to go into ministry but it’s even more than that. I know Jesus wants me to help people develop in life and leadership in a powerful way. And, bull riding taught me a lot of lessons that has really helped me chase my ambitions, stay faithful in my walk with Jesus, and be disciplined. Here’s a few lessons the rodeo arena has taught me that I’ll never let go…

What I’ve learned from riding bulls

1. Get your head right! You cannot climb on the back of a 2,000 pound angry animal and not have your head in the game. Mind over matter is essential to survival as you ride bulls. I think that’s why I can focus so hard on something; I’ve cultivated that when I knew my life was on the line every weekend I climbed onto a bull. When you do something as if your life depended on it, the results can be staggering and world changing! Get your head in the game; get your head right.

2. Focus on technique! You probably can’t look at a guy riding a bull and realize the technique behind all that madness. Heck, I did a high-school science fair project on the technique of bull riding. Not saying it was a good project but there’s a ton of technique in staying on top that bull. You must hone that technique through practice, feedback, and learning from others. That’s why I’m always so eager to learn. When you can constantly perfect and hone your technique the results will show up.

3. Don’t be a sissy! That lesson may sound insensitive but it’s vital to our survival in life and leadership. You have to be tough and see things through. Too often we seek the easy way out. Well there’s no “easy” way to do the rodeo life. It takes guts, hard work, and bravery. The same principle applies to life and leadership. Step up, know it will take guts, and just go for it! No backing down and no giving up!

4. Know your “why!” If you don’t know why you’re riding bulls, when you get injured you will surely give up. It’s not “if” you get injured, it’s “when” in bull riding. The same exact thing applies to life and leadership. If you want to lead and chase an ambition you WILL end up getting burned, hurt, or even stomped on. If you don’t know why you do what you do, you’ll give up. You MUST know your “why” and lean into that when the going gets tough. I remember many wrecks from an encounter with a bull that I had to remember why I wanted to keep riding. I was chasing my passion to win that buckle.

What now?

Those are just a few lessons I’ve learned that have really stuck with me over the years. You have your own lessons you’ve learned in life. Hopefully those four I just listed are encouraging to you and make you think. When I take the time to think about my journey to bull riding, to following Jesus, and to my life’s plan it sends shivers down my spine. Truth is, God always had a plan for me. Thankfully He never gave up chasing after me even when I didn’t want Him to. It gives great joy to tell you that the same goes for you as well!

What lessons have you learned in life? Better question: How can you use your life to grow and help others grow? There’s so much satisfaction in leveraging your life for the good of others. I’ll share more lessons I’ve learned from my past in future posts. This was just on my heart to share today.

Bull Riding & Life’s Purpose

Yes you read that right. Bull riding. As promised in my original blog post, I would elaborate more on this in the future. See, I used to ride bulls. Not really for fun but for sport. I wanted to make it big, go pro, and win the buckle. Bull riding holds a very special place in my heart even thought it’s been many years since I sat on the back of one. Now I know what you’re asking…

How on earth did you get started in bull riding?

It truly wasn’t that hard. Around my 13th birthday I made it known that I had this big ambition to ride a bull. Word got around and a week later I sat on top of my first ever bull. It only cost me $15 and signing a waiver of course. I think my Dad was more nervous than I was. My Mom didn’t even come because I’m pretty sure she was living in denial for the first several months of my riding career.

That day I put on some borrowed rodeo chaps, a protective vest, and a helmet and nodded my head for the very first time. I really can’t tell you what made me want to ride bulls other than the fact that it was a challenge; and now I know my personality type is “The Challenger” so it seems like a natural fit.

So, what happened after that?

Adrenaline = my best friend!

Needless to say I was hooked from day one. The energy in a rodeo arena is vastly different when you’re behind the chutes and the one actually riding these animals. Soon as I dusted myself off from my first ride, which lasted a whopping 3 seconds, I made a vow that I would make a living doing this.

That night started a 6-year journey to try and make it big by the time a graduated high school. My entire life’s purpose was to be a professional bull rider. I would watch my ride tapes (when tapes were a thing) over and over to perfect my riding form. I was all in. I even dressed the part, something I’m not proud of now because of many embarrassing pictures as proof of how dorky I was. At school I looked like I was heading to a rodeo. I went to school in Ohio but dressed like I worked a ranch in Texas. The part of your locker that’s supposed to hold books was cleared out as a safe for my prized and very expensive cowboy hat. I know, you’re judging me right? I don’t blame you.

So, what happened?

Well needless to say I was never “pro” caliber. I did win every now and then and would often walk away with some prize money. But I never won a buckle; ever! Came close, but many injuries and trips to the emergency room kept me from ever getting the 1st place buckle.

Around year 2 of riding I met some guys who impacted my life forever. Remember earlier how I said rodeo held a special place in my heart? Well they were the reason. We will get into that journey in a future post. To summarize, these young men mentored me and showed me how an honorable man with integrity lives. They also introduced me to Jesus; who I had not really thought about before and had very wrong views of. That journey led me to preaching my first ever sermon at a rodeo arena, to signing up to go to college for preaching and leadership, to entering ministry, to developing leaders, to meeting my wife, to me discovering my truest self.

That’s a lot to just summarize but I’m sure you all have stories of your own and it’s hard to summarize your story. We will go into more detail at a later post, in which I would love it if you would share your current journey to self-discovery. That’s why we are all here. To encourage and help one another! That’s why I built this website. Let’s talk more about that later. For right now, maybe you could answer these closing questions and leave a comment below:

What journey do you find yourself on right now? Are you excited about that journey?