Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chasing Calves & Christ

It usually doesn't take long for people to realize I'm a passionate person. And if you know me well, you know that roping is one of those passions. It is the ultimate cowboy sport and is a true display of quality horsemanship and teamwork. Of all the ways I can use a horse, this is my number one preference.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to go with my dad to Joplin Regional Stockyards and attend the "Best of the Best" calf roping. The top 15 calf ropers in the world, along with 12 invited ropers (many of whom were just as good) all competed for a purse totaling $100,000, with the winner of short round taking home $20,000 alone. Needless to say, I was quite excited for this opportunity, but I really had no idea the perspective and experience I would encounter.

Before I continue, it's probably a proper introduction to say that many of these guys I have followed at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) every year and I guess you could say that I do idolize some of them...in a good way. I'll never forget approaching the sponsor tent on Saturday and having 17-time world champion roper and King of the Cowboys Trevor Brazile walk within 5 feet of me....I turned to my dad and said, "That's probably the closest you'll ever get to him!"

It was an absolutely amazing experience meeting icons such as Trevor, Tuf & Clint Cooper, legends Fred Whitfield and Blair Burke, and "Shazam" Matt Shiozawa. But the story gets even cooler....

Most places where people of national recognition are gathered keep those individuals rather protected and secure. Fans are generally limited to both time and access of their heroes. But not at the Best of the Best. Not only was I able to stand within 5 feet of one of my greatest roping icons (and later get a picture with him), but as dad and I milled around the crowd, we found that all the ropers were right amongst us visiting, signing autographs and taking pictures...as if they were just another person. We were quite surprised at the casual atmosphere, and looking back I wish I had taken the opportunity to visit with some of them more, but the experience was as close to a dream as you can get.

I never would've guessed in a million years I would actually
meet one of the greatest ropers of all times and one of my heroes
17 time World Champion roper Trevor Brazile.
So now onto the real purpose of this post. While I did want to share my incredible excitement of meeting these cowboys, shaking hands and getting up close in person, that still wasn't the coolest part of the day.

Trevor Brazile, Tuf & Clint Cooper and Stran Smith are four of the best ropers in the world. They have set world records and are legends in their own time. But the thing that I admire most about these three cowboys is how they profess their faith. Of the five autographs I got on Saturday, three gave reference to God and Jesus.

Clint Cooper

Stran Smith

Trevor Brazile

They are Christians before they are cowboys and they never let a opportunity pass to give credit where credit is due.

And as for young Mr Tuf, on his shirt collar "Jesus" is embroidered and every time he is interviewed at the NFR, he never ceases to credit God for his success.

Many athletic celebrities get caught up in the life of fame and fortune and forget who they once were. But for these cowboys, the only difference between them and me is they make a lot of money throwing a rope...they're still a cowboy, a human and a down-to-earth normal person. They will carry on a conversation and visit with you like you're their next door neighbor. They're genuine, they're real, they're true Christian cowboys.

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Unconditional Love

Unconditional love-but don't push it....this is so reassuring :)

My mother decided it would be a comical statement to post this picture to my wall on Facebook. Thankfully, I know her well enough to both believe this and laugh at it. And I'm sure she thought it was perfectly timed given what this weekend holds for celebration.

Yes my mom can be one of the sweetest and most patient people on the earth....until she hits the end of the rope. Then you might as well just not say a word and move to grandma's for the week.

But that's not the purpose of this post. My mom is one of the coolest, sweetest and smartest moms in the world and this weekend is a celebration of how she has sacrificed and served her family and those around her.

Mothers are a very unique and special group of people. They have intel and an innate sense of their surroundings that is unmatched. They know just how to care for a baby or someone sick. They are the last ones to bed and typically the first ones up and the word "break" is seldom in their vocabulary. They are kind, loving, wise and strong. They are the lifeblood of society.

On this Mother's Day, we have the opportunity to pamper, cater and serve our mothers and show them just how much we appreciate their service the other 364 days of the year. Make the day a special one and show your mom just how much you appreciate and love her.

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sustainable Agriculture-It's One in the Same

Sustainability has become a hot topic in recent years as consumers are beginning to take vested interest in food production and where their eggs, milk, steaks and whole wheat bread originate. As the "green movement" has taken hold, people are becoming more aware of environmental impact and are looking to be more sensible in their consumption and lifestyles.

Unfortunately, the use of this term has also taken a bit of a twist in the agriculture community.
Apparently, not all agriculture practices are considered sustainable. At least by the public. According to the general population, if you operate what may be considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), use conventional production methods or follow other practices that aren't considered all-natural, your business and farm is not sustainable.
Courtesy www.certifiedangusbeef.com

Ok-time to turn this story around. It just so happens that agriculture as a whole is THE example of sustainability. It doesn't matter if it's organic, all-natural, grass-finished, cage-free or conventional. In fact, I would argue that conventional is still the most sustainable of all the options. According to Webster's dictionary, sustainable is defined as "a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged". So with this said, anything that conserves, preserves and reserves a resource is considered sustainable. This means organic, all-natural, conventional, any and all properly executed and managed production practices within agriculture fall under this category.

Today's conventional beef production remains highly sustainable
Courtesy www.wvu.edu
Focusing on beef production specifically, in this article from Missouri Farmer Today, Washington State University professor Jude Capper says "...sustainability in beef production systems is not constrained by size, style or scale. Rather sustainable beef production must be economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially conscious. And, conventional beef production meets all three of those qualifications." She continues by saying that if this wasn't the case, producers wouldn't continue to be in the business. "The long, rich history of farming and ranching in the United States is a testament to the cattle industry's sustainability," Capper said.

Numbers don't carry the weight and effect of personal application and feeling, but they still can't be overlooked. Beef production now requires
-19% less feed
-12% less water
-33% less land and
-has decreased carbon footprint by 16%

And meanwhile, carcass weights have increased almost 175# on average as compared to the 1970's. To top it all off, we've managed to reduce the number of days it takes to get an animal to harvest by four months!!! Guess what this means - conventionally raised beef requires less inputs, takes less time and yields more product.

Put this in the big picture: "In 1977, it would have taken about 3,000 days to make the same amount of beef that it took only 1,900 days in 2007. The result is a savings of 1,100 days of environmental impact," Capper said.

Farmers care for the land and livestock in hopes of preserving
the tradition for generations to come
Courtesy www.sustainableag.unl.edu
Producers today want to take every step possible to ensure the livestock and the land are around for generations to come. Passing on the family tradition is the dream. Raising safe and wholesome food for the world is the number one priority. And caring for the resources and animals that are entrusted to us is the commitment.

Consumers are BLESSED with a variety of food choices. That's the beauty of the agriculture industry, there's something for everyone. "...there is a place for all beef production systems, whether conventional, natural or grassfed. Sustainability comes down to which style is best suited to be economically viable and socially and environmentally conscious given the land and resources available," Capper said. "Feeding hungry people in a world where one in seven don't have enough food — that's sustainability."

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Never Lose the Real

What does it mean to lose the real? Or rather to keep it? And why is the real so important?

When I was young, one of my pet peeves was people who tried to be cool and fit in with the crowd through their actions, conversations and demeanor. Whatever was the popular style or way of doing things, that was their method. I've always appreciated authenticity and when someone has to do something to be noticed rather than just be themselves I lose respect for them.

I've recently realized multiple facets of my personality and interests that I believe derive from this concept of being honest and real. One is how I handle serious conversations or leading questions. I don't like people asking me a question indirectly or in a roundabout way. And when I ask a question, even if their answer that isn't what I want to hear, I would rather know the truth than have to figure it out myself. Direct and honest communication is the most effective. And when you can be honest and real about what you want to know or say, I believe that speaks volumes. Lately in my relationships, I've had people comment on how they appreciate the fact that I'm straightforward, open and honest and that I demand that of those with whom I communicate. I think society would benefit from this standard of direct and real dialogue.

Cowboys are the symbol of hard work, honesty and
commitment to what's right.
Courtesy www.westernhats.com
The second facet is my love and appreciation of cowboys and the western way of life. No one is more direct, straightforward, honest and true to form than a cowboy. The code of the west demands it. Cowboys don't need to create an image - they ARE an image. They stand by their word, are never above reproach and are willing to lay down their life for their horse, family, country and God.

When your personality and character isn't formulated by what you think society wants to see, but rather by who you really are as God made you, it's noticed. In fact, authenticity and genuine behavior stands out to the world. So why wouldn't you just be yourself, be honest and stand your ground? When you give in to what everyone else tells you is right rather than what you believe in your heart, you lose all sight of yourself and what you live for. Like Shane in the movie, you become a prisoner--to what the world is saying rather than what God has already stated.

I'm realizing more all the time that it doesn't take long for people to figure out the majority of my personality shortly after I meet them. They see that I'm a Christian (at least that's my goal), a cowboy, and a good friend who is committed to being honest and loyal to those around me. I have no image to portray -- or hide -- I'm just who I am and that's what people see.

Do you have the real? When people see you, do they really see YOU or do they see the image and person you have created? Does your relationship with God shine or do people not even notice the difference in your life? Do you strive to live and communicate in a direct, honest and authentic way?
Being YOU is as real and honest as it gets.
Courtesy of whatdigitalcamera.media.ipcdigital.co.uk

Don't become a prisoner or puppet to what society says you should be. Be yourself. Be authentic. Be honest. And above all - Never Lose the Real.

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Take a Stand - Ride for the Brand!

At the end of my blog, you'll find this line "Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!"

You might think it sounds catchy and country, and probably remember hearing the phrase "ridin for the brand" in some commercial or marketing campaign. But have you ever heard the real meaning and connotation behind those four words?
A brand signifies who you are and what you stand for.
Courtesy www.vdacs.virginia.gov

Beef Magazine
recently tweeted an editorial written by Troy Marshall on the importance of brand management. Marshall does a wonderful job giving credence to the historic significance of this saying and ties it to every aspect of a cattleman's life. "It's a creed that embodies a lot of values we hold dear. There are fewer compliments that are more meaningful than being able to say someone rode for the brand," Marshall writes.

He continues saying this phrase makes most people think of standing up for something they believe in, are proud of and honored to represent. "It's about living up to your own values and code; it's about exercising your potential," Marshall writes, "When you put your brand on something, it's a declaration to the world of not only pride in what you produce, but an announcement that you take ownership and responsibility for it."

Of course, Marshall's editorial is written to the direction of managing a ranch brand that advertises the cattle produced and the people in charge. But brands are more than a symbol burned onto the hip of a steer, or hung above the driveway entrance or affixed to the side of a stock trailer. A brand can be anything that represents who you are and what you believe in. It's something you stand behind, represent and are proud of. Ridin for the brand encompasses living for a purpose. It's enacting what you believe is honorable, right, just and true. It's living every day unashamed and ready to give your all for the cause.

Are you ridin for the brand or do you just go with whatever feels right at the time? Do you take a stand for what you believe in or mix with the crowds to see what ends up happening? Do you live your life with purpose or are you easily swayed to believe what other people say?
Live with purpose and ride for the brand!
Courtesy www.4.bp.blogspot.com

Be bold, take a stand, live with purpose and above all - Ride for the Brand.

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Love -The Waiting Game

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." - Ephesians 5:31 (NIV)

The search for the one God has designed specifically for us can sometimes be challenging, frustrating, heartbreaking and very arduous. Especially when everyone else seems to be getting in relationships, engaged or married and you're still the single third wheel looking for that special someone. Sometimes we wonder what it is about us that people don't find attractive or why we can't seem to find the person that meets all our criteria and makes us feel whole. We may even come to a point where we wonder if we will ever find someone to fall in love with......

Courtesy of www.twodelighted.com

Her profile caught my attention and her story was intriguing. She was a Texas cowgirl who loved the Lord and loved the country. After a month or so of talking, I expressed interest in her and we began conversing over the idea of a relationship. She was impressed with me and I with her, but 12 hours distance was a hindrance and she was reluctant to advance further without actually meeting me. Four months after my initial online request found me on a plane headed South to meet this wonderful young lady whom I had come to admire very much. 

We could talk for hours, text each other all day and share almost anything with one another. She loved riding horses, shooting guns, cooking, and playing with kids. She had a heart for family, ministry and serving the Lord. She was everything I wanted in a girl. 

Upon returning from my trip down South we continued talking about the possibility of a relationship. Our number one desire was to follow God's will and listen to His calling. The problem was neither of us were totally sure what He was trying to tell us.

After lots of prayer, talking to each other and listening to God, I began to feel Him leading us to pursue a friendship only. The more I questioned if this was really what God wanted, the more He gave me a peace about it. My heart was screaming that it wanted to be with her and I continued to remind myself of all the qualities I loved about her. I was very aggravated because I had been making myself wait and be "picky" about who I pursued and I believed I had found a serious potential mate in this young lady.

Then in my quick devotion time Friday morning, I read Psalms 37:4 "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." BAM!!! It was like a punch to the gut and yet a reassuring hug. I knew God had a plan and only wanted me to fully trust Him, fully love Him and fully be happy in Him. So I finally broke down and gave in. I messaged her and shared what I felt God was telling me. I expressed my feelings and how hard it was for me to let go of this opportunity, but admitted that I believed God had a perfect plan in place and would reveal the right person at the right time to both of us. Her response touched my heart in a way that only God can do. She was amazed and impressed at my spiritual discernment and ability to relinquish my desires. She commented on how much she had learned through our friendship and we agreed there was a reason for us to become friends and experience this journey.

But what really got me was when she began talking about how this situation just went to show that God wants us to believe He has someone picked out that will be perfect for us and He isn't teasing us by not letting us have what we want - He's showing us what we want and saying "I can do even better!!!"
Everything we experience in relationships is for a reason and if we are mature and discerning we can learn from all things - good and bad. The joys and trials we go through in trying to find the one God has made for us prepares us to be ready when He really does show us the one. But we must be willing to give up what we think we want, turn loose of what we would like to control and say "God, I trust you, I believe in you and I know whatever you have planned will be the best possible!"

Waiting for the one God has designed can be incredibly difficult,
but we will be rewarded in the end!
Courtesy of www.3.bp.blogspot.com

For me, relationships are a waiting game. I've learned to not dive into them with just any girl that I think might be a possibility. I've decided to take time and develop good friendships with them and follow God's calling in regards to love. Does my heart sometimes want to jump ahead and bask in the emotions love entertains? Absolutely!! But I've made up my mind that what God wants is the best thing possible. Though it can hurt, I only want what He gives me.

Do you ever wonder if the day will come when you find someone that you not only can live with, but can't live without? Do you feel sometimes like you're waiting forever without results or reassurance? Don't worry, don't be anxious, don't be afraid. The Lord has a perfect plan, a perfect mate and a perfect love that can not be beaten. Listen to His will, follow His calling and delight yourself in Him - and he WILL grant you what your heart desires!!!

 Are you patient enough to wait?
Courtesy of www.courtneymardon.files.wordpress.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Family, Friends and the Outdoors

Bill Jordan's motto is one that rings true with every hardcore hunter. The combination of camaraderie and creation is a luring characteristic of this wonderful sport. Granted it's always exhilarating to hear a thundering gobble, be within bow range of a giant buck or have a flock of teal buzz past your blind at 70mph, but that's all just icing on the cake to what truly makes hunting such an enjoyable sport.

I've had the wonderful opportunity the last three weekends to spend time in the deer woods with family and friends. And it's given me a renewed appreciation for this passion. Halloween weekend I met up with a friend that I met just this past fall and taped him on a Sat eve/Sun morning hunt in North Mo. We were on public land and never saw a single deer, but I had such a blast spending time in the woods with him and his buddy and witnessing amazing weather and beauty.

The first weekend in November, I traveled back to my folk's place and went out with my brother for another Sat eve/Sun morning run. Saturday night we were fortunate enough to see a flock of turkeys going to roost, but no deer showed up. That was still probably one of the funnest hunts I've been on with my brother though. We laughed and joked around and had a great time together sitting in a tree. Sunday morning we witnessed a beautiful fog/frost, heard and watched about 20 turkeys come off the roost and were fortunate enough to harvest a nice mature doe, capturing it all on camera - and we made it to church on time!!!
My brother Cooper was fortunate enough to
harvest this mature doe and get the shot on camera.
I'm so glad I was able to experience it with him!
This last weekend I made the trek to NE Kansas (not really a trek, only 3 1/2 hrs) to sit in a tree with my cousin bowhunting. Unfortunately deer sightings were at a minimum and I only saw one myself, but was unable to get him on camera. We faced unseasonably warm temperatures and incredible gusts Saturday and literally almost froze our toes off Sunday afternoon. We sat from just about 1:30 til almost 6 and experienced cutting winds and what felt like freezing temperatures. At more than 20 feet up a tree I broke three records: my longest sit in a deer stand, my longest time holding in liquids (I finally used the bottle when I started doing the potty dance!) and the coldest I have ever been!!! To say the least it was an unpleasant afternoon, but I got to spend some awesome quality time with my cousin and witness some beautiful Kansas country.

As we sat perched in that tree overlooking a beautiful pond and surrounded by massive trees and draws, I told my cousin there was nothing quite like sitting in a deer stand. He replied saying that was one of the things he loved most about hunting, was that it was one of the few sports that revered God by glorifying nature and creation. The sunrises, sunsets, towering oaks and passing clouds make for a beautiful panorama that only God could create. Being able to experience that is truly a blessing from above.

The big Kansas bucks didn't show themselves,
but my cousin Brady and I braced extremes of unpleasant weather and enjoyed a great weekend in the stand together!!!
Hunting for me is a passion. I love nothing more than chasing gobbling turkeys and watching flocks of ducks and geese funnel into a decoy spread. The crisp stillness of an April morning and the warmth of a November sunrise fill me with excitement and desire. And of course nothing makes my heart race more than hearing the words "Take 'Em!!!"

But what really drives me to love this sport is simple: Family. Friends. And God's Great Outdoors.

Seeing God's handiwork displayed in creation is utterly breathtaking sometimes.
Although I tend to get bored sitting in a deerstand,
being able to witness this beauty is incredible!

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!