Bull Rider Daylon Swearingen’s dream of making the PBR’s Unleash the Beast has come true, but faith and putting God first remains a priority.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Part 1 — Following your heart or following God?
People outside the industry don’t think of rodeo cowboys or bull riders as being people who dream big but there are song and book titles that play on the phrase, “gold buckle dreams.”
Bull riders dream of making it on tour with the PBR and ropers dream of making the National Finals Rodeo. Many dream about riding just once at Cheyenne or the Calgary Stampede. Some dream of making an association finals in their home states.
For some, dreams come true. I’ve been fortunate enough to know a few young men who have recently seen their dreams come true of getting a place in one of the PBR’s coveted top spots.
At 19 years old, Daylon Swearingen is one of those young men and I had a brief conversation with his mom, Carrie this week about how to be praying for Daylon.
“This has always been Daylon’s dream,” said Carrie.
But along with following dreams comes the idea of following your heart and that’s where the trap can come in for Christians. It understandably sounds good and I’ve seen many cowboys and bull riders talk about it and give advice encouraging it. But the Bible warns us about uncontrolled emotion and it especially warns us about the heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
The prophet, Jeremiah, is writing to the Jews who at the time are in exile in Babylon after failing to follow God’s path for them but instead, becoming like the pagan cultures they embraced around them.
But we were made with the same hearts and emotions as the Jews back in this time and can take this warning for ourselves as well. Our heart will deceive us. Following our hearts can lead us into sinful decisions more easily than it can lead us toward fulfilled dreams.
One thing that Carrie asked for prayer was that people would see God in Daylon.
“This is God’s platform, looking forward to seeing His plans!” said Carrie.
Yes! Exactly. They understand while this is a dream come true for Daylon, it is God who orchestrated it and the priority isn’t on the dream, it’s on our heavenly Father who gave that dream and directed the family’s path.
By keeping our focus on God and not our hearts, we can see how our dreams are part of God’s plan.
And if following our hearts isn’t how we chase our gold buckle dreams, then what is? That’s found right here in Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
It’s God that we’re to trust instead of our hearts and in trusting Him, he will direct us where He wants us to go. For Daylon, it is a time with the PBR. For me, it was into full time ministry. For you, it could be anything but when you follow Him, your dreams will follow His path and He will be glorified through all you do.
You can’t get to Heaven without knowing ‘The Way”
With most everyone owning a smartphone now, road maps and guessing how long it will take to get to the rodeo or bull riding are long gone replaced by Google Maps and GPS. Replacing guesswork is a precise arrival time based on traffic, construction and alternate routes.
And out of that arrival time comes a new challenge. Beating it. Most of us joke about it but if we’re being honest, we love seeing that time estimate drop a minute or two juggling the maximum speed we can get away with without getting a ticket with the distance we’re traveling and the potential for an extra five miles and hour to beat that initial arrival time.
I wrote a social media post about it this week in fun because I knew the route I was on was taking me around a long city block with a bunch of traffic lights. If anything can cause you to lose the game and see the time kick up a couple minutes, it’s one too many red lights. So…I cut through a mall parking lot that I knew exited on the next road I needed.
At the end of the lot, the time dropped by four minutes.
(By the way, the dictionary definition for Booyah, by: used to express joy, especially over a well-played or victorious moment in sports.)
But regardless of how quickly you get to your destination, you’ve got to know where you’re going and how to get there or there’s no point starting out on the journey.
Working in rodeo ministry, I’ve met a lot of cowboys and bull riders who are either new to their faith or don’t know what they believe and struggle with what their purpose is.
They lack direction and it can lead to a lot of feelings of being discontent and unhappy. It can be bad enough to damage relationships and impact their rodeo and bull riding careers when it starts to affect their riding.
The most important starting place is the gospel.
It’s here that we learn that Jesus came to show us the way.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…
The disciples were still trying to understand what was going on. They still didn’t understand that Jesus was here to die in place of our sins so that we could all, through him, have a place in Heaven, our final destination if we have a saving faith in Jesus.
Sin separates us from God and God is going to both judge and punish unforgiven sin, however big or small. It all gets punished equally and that is eternal separation from Him in hell. But, through a belief that Jesus was the son of God sent here to die for us and that he also rose again and through a repentant heart, asking for our sins to be forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice, we are assured a permanent future in Heaven.
All of John 14:6 says this: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The disciple, Thomas, had just said he didn’t know where Jesus was planning to go as Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for his pending death on the cross. Thomas said he didn’t know the way and Jesus made it clear, it would be through him.
Earlier, Peter had similar questions, letting them know that he would be leaving them for a time but was going to prepare a place for them (and us).
John 13:36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
It doesn’t matter what time we’re arriving or how quickly we can get there; when it comes to Heaven it simply matters that we are going to get there when we’re supposed to.
But for those of us that feel lost or discontent, when we can learn to focus on what is coming and our faith is put in Jesus, we find it’s that faith, through what we learn in the Bible, that guides our steps and helps us make decisions. We don’t know the route we’re going to take to get there while we’re here on Earth, but we know our destination is Heaven and we can learn to take comfort in that, no matter how hard this road sometimes gets or how lost we might sometimes feel.
And isn’t it nice to know that when you get to where you’re going, there’s someone waiting there for you, happy that you’re coming?
The song Kyrie may unintentionally point us toward some strong Biblical lessons about God’s presence in our lives.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Kyrie eleison means “Lord have mercy” in Greek and when I learned that as an adult, the 80s song Kyrie by Mr. Mister became a favorite all over again. It’s still a ‘play it loud’ song for me and is regularly on rotation traveling to rodeos and bull ridings. (link to the song in the comments since Facebook hates external links). While many readings and phrases that are repeated in Catholic church services are in Latin, the Greek words, Kyrie eleison, are, as I understand it, still used.
“My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself againKyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light”
Lord have mercy, down the road that I must travel.
Lord have mercy, through the darkness of the night.
Lord have mercy, where I’m going, will you follow?
Lord have mercy, on a highway in the light.
It isn’t straight-up biblical but there are biblical encouragements in this as we look at scripture and what we can take from the song.
Hebrews 4:16 — Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Every week, we’re out there on the roads together. Whether we’re in the same truck or rodeo wagon, we’re on the phone, texting or snapping but one way or another, we’re sharing the journey together talking about bulls, times, runs, judging, the ground conditions and sometimes even what we’re going through. More of then people realize, conversations about God and the Bible come up and sometimes we’re praying for one another.
But we’re also sharing a journey together that only God and people in this industry fully understand. “Lord have mercy, down the road that I must travel.”
His mercy and grace are there for all who want to receive it. Instead of punishment for our sins, we can be forgiven through repentance and a saving faith in Jesus Christ–that he died to take the punishment for our sins that separate us from God without the forgiveness He gives us (His mercy and grace) when we truly repent and ask for it.
As we travel this week and weekend, and any time, I just want to encourage us to take time to pray for one another and those who have not yet experienced God’s mercy and grace.
And I want us to take comfort, not in the song lyrics but in the verse from Hebrews that God is there for us in any time of need. No matter how hard it gets or how abandoned we sometimes feel, like we’re going down that road alone, He is always with us. #CowboysOfTheCross
I grew up with a Catholic background. We went to church every Sunday but we didn’t have to work and I never really got too much from it. I went through many of the catechisms and ceremonies that are traditional in the Catholic church and never really understood much of the meaning of any of them.
At the age of 15, I met a young lady whose father was a Baptist minister. They started witnessing to me, questioning me about what the Catholic Church believed and why we believed it. I had always believed in God, believed in Jesus and that he died for the sins of the world, but I never really made that promise my own.
My wife and I were married in January of 2000 and by the end of 2005/beginning of 2006 we had three children. Our youngest was born in October of 2005. In May of 2005, we both realized that we had never truly made a profession of salvation by grace through faith. But we had both been in a church all of our lives and had a head knowledge; we just never had obtained a heart knowledge. The first Wednesday in May, 2006 my wife received Christ as her personal savior.
All the time, the Holy Spirit was calling me to be saved and I didn’t know it. I was in torment because I didn’t have peace about my faith. The following Friday night I bowed my head and heart and asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and personal Savior and thank him for being that for me.
I did not repeat any specific type of prayer but accepted him and believe in him the best way that I knew how at the time, and he saved me!
In the fall of 2017 God started dealing with me about being a preacher or just going to Bible college. I argued with him and said that it was just something that I wanted to do and not what he wanted me to do. By the time the January, 2018 came around, I could not get away from the call to preach, and announced my call publicly at a big event at our church in March, 2018. I’m now currently enrolled in Bible college at my church and preaching from time to time and have never looked back nor regretted any decision I have ever made for the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Jerry is a whip maker from North Carolina)