Thursday, March 29, 2012

Choosing to Cheat

If you are like me, the first time I saw the title of this book, I did a double-take.  As a youth pastor, I am constantly talking to our students about NOT cheating on tests, homework, etc.  We know we are not to cheat on our spouses, cheat to get ahead at work, etc.  So, when another youth ministry friend recommended this for me to read, I reluctantly agreed.  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) at it's actual content.

The basic premise of the book is that, especially in ministry, we choose to "cheat" our families and ourselves out of quality time...all in the name of "ministry."  Sure, our families know that getting phone calls at 3:00 AM, going to four different graduation ceremonies, and getting home late are generally pretty normal for what we do.  Because we know this fact, I think we often have the tendency to excuse missing time with our families.  After all, I am doing this for the Lord, you know.  Seriously...that's about like Nacho Libre labeling a bag of chips "the Lord's chips." 

We are called by our God to love our families, to lead our families...not leave our families in the name of good things.  I know that my life can easily become overrun with "good" things, and when that happens, it is usually the GREAT things that get neglected.

The challenge of "Choosing to Cheat" was a valid one.  Not the best book I've ever read, nor did I agree with everything in it.  However, it does uphold what I see to be a Biblical standard for men...ministers, or not.  Choose your wife, choose your kids first.  Choose the GREAT over the good.  No, use this as an excuse to neglect your job.  That isn't Biblical, either.  Just remember to keep your priorities in line....God first, Family second, everything else after that....

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Ain't My First Rodeo

I grew up on a farm and ranch.  Might be hard to believe, but I did.  Our family had a ranch on the caprock, cattle, horses, tractors, you name it.  For my seventh birthday, my grandpa showed up with a horse...that was for me!  Now, this wasn't a pet to lead around on a leash (halter as it's really called).  It was for me to use and enjoy around the farm (meaning I had to do work, too).

Over the next few years, I got to know that horse (her name was Cocoa) very well.  I knew what she was going to do before she did it.  I could tell if she was tired, grumpy, scared, or whatever.  I learned to ride on that horse, and learned a lot about herding cattle, even riding up and down the sides of the caprock.  She was a very dependable, and even-tempered horse.  I knew what to expect every time I took her out for a ride.  Knowing her tendencies let me focus on what I was doing with the cattle or watching a fenceline.  Her reliability  was easy to take for granted.  Cocoa was a great horse.

After a few years, though, her age began to catch up with her.  By the time I was in early middle school, arthritis had set in, and I could not ride her much.  One day we were rounding up our cattle to do some work with them.  As we were pushing toward the house, I saw one of the cattle bolt off in the wrong direction.  Now, this was not uncommon, and it only took a few seconds with a horse to head them off and send them back in the right direction...usually.   Due to my horse's condition, I had to ride one of our other horses named Stoney.  We had owned Stoney for several years, and he was more high-spirited than trusty old Cocoa.  He was also quite a bit taller.  However, I wasn't too nervous...and we were not going far, so off we went.  The one thing that my parents and grandpa had told me about Stoney was not to let him take off too quickly (running), as he would get excited and start bucking.  I knew this...I had been around him a long time...I knew this.  However, when I saw that cow take off, my instinct kicked in and I spurred Stoney  and took off to head off the cow.  I realized my mistake about 3 seconds later, as I felt his gallop turn into a buck...  If you have ever been on a bucking horse, then you know...it's not exactly fun.  I held on for quite a while, but he just didn't stop bucking.  Finally, I just let go and found myself hurtling towards the ground.  That hurt...it hurt a lot, and I'll never forget it.

After a few days of mending...my dad and grandpa did something that I'll never forget.  They took me to the corrals, and there stood Stoney, all saddled up.   They told me that I needed to get back up on him and ride for a bit.  Of course, after my last encounter, I wasn't too eager to oblige them.  With some coaxing, I found myself back in the saddle, and riding Stoney.  Did I trust him?  No way...but I was not scared of him anymore.

My dad and grandpa taught me a very valuable lesson that day.  Yes, I had been hurt and scared by that horse.  But they taught me that when (not if...but when) you get thrown to the ground, you HAVE to get back up and go again.  Otherwise, you end up cowering in the corner, afraid to experience anything.  I loved to ride horses...I still enjoy it.  So, letting the one bad spill that I took ruin me from something I loved would have been crazy.  I'm sure it was hard for them to put me back on that horse, but I sure am glad that they did.

I no longer have a horse...and I no longer live on a ranch...but the lesson I learned back then is so relevent in every area of my life.  I love my family, but I'm going to fail as a dad/husband in some area.  I love working in church ministry, but at some point, the church is going to throw me...or I'm going to fail in my responsibilities.  Life will throw you much like Stoney threw me that day.  Many times it will be painful, embarrasing, and hard to handle.  It may be the result of a misake on your part, or through no fault of your own.  Whatever the case, how will you handle yourself?  Will you stay down?  Will you walk away?  Or will you get up, dust yourself off and try again?

Don't let one (or maybe a few) thing stop you from doing what you love, from doing what you are gifted and made to do.  I needed help getting up that day...just like I've needed help getting up from hard times in life since then.  I'll never forget my grandpa running over and picking me up off the ground.  I'll also never forget the times that the Lord was there to lift me up, often through fellow brothers in Christ, after a tough spill in life.  So no, this ain't my first rodeo...(honestly, never really got into rodeo)...I've been thrown a few times since then.  However, the lesson is the same...don't let a fall, discouragement, trials, you name it...keep you down.  Life happens when you get up off the ground.  Stay focused on Jesus...and He will always be there to pick you up.