It's only fitting that I chose to be a rodeo cowboy since my life was centered around horses as a youngster in Lineville, AL.
I grew up riding horses, and my grandfather showed them in various exhibitions. I also watched a lot of pro rodeo on ABC's Wide World of Sports, and I looked up to all-around rodeo star Larry Mahan (bareback bronc, saddle-bronc and bull rider).
Being athletic in nature, I had an intense desire to compete. Before becoming a professional in 1985, I tried a little calf roping and bull riding prior to settling on bareback bronc riding.
To say it's a safer event than the others is debatable because 10 months before I received my Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card, I fell from a bronc, hit the fence and separated my shoulder which could have altered my career plans. It required major surgery, and to this day it's phenomenal to ma that I came back a stronger rider.
Earning my pro status wasn't easy, but nothing worthwhile in life is easy. It still takes hard work to stay on top, and I want to do everything I can to improve my riding skill.
The greatest turning point in my life came when I decided to attend a rodeo school in Kansas City, MO. It was labeled a "Christian Rodeo School", and I could identify with that. After all I had gone through the motions of "accepting Jesus Christ" at age 13 and claimed to be a Christian even though I didn't care to follow God or read the Bible. My Christianity was nothing more than a "fire insurance policy."
So I went to this camp expecting to learn the finer points of riding. Then after three days of hearing speakers talk in detail about the life of Jesus Christ as accurately documented in the Bible, I realized just how far I was from God.
In college (Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL) I fell into the party crowd and did things that dishonored Him. At that camp I felt conviction in my heart, and I realized that I was wandering lost. I had no direction or purpose in life, and I lacked the real joy and peace that these other people had.
Was Jesus Christ the answer to my problems? Putting my trust in Him couldn't hurt because I wasn't excelling in anything, and I was progressively going downhill.
On the third day I decided to invite Christ into my heart with the existing faith that I had. Today I can honestly say that it was the most important decision I ever made, although it wasn't until later that I began to see everything fall into place. Then I asked myself, "Why didn't I do this a long time ago?"
The only way I could grow in my faith was to read the Bible regularly, pray and surround myself with Christian friends. One of the friends that God put in my path was bulldogger and calf roper Charlie Lowry who set a good Christian example for me. I soon discovered the difference between religion and Christianity and found out what it was like to be truly free.
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