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By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

When Charis Thorsell sings the American national anthem before a bull riding or rodeo, she feels the pressure that comes from being proud to be American and wanting to do the anthem justice. In the cowboy community, American pride is strong and comes second only to their recognition of God.

Her family runs Buckin' Ohio, a well-established monthly bull riding event during the summers in Burbank, Ohio and when someone took to the event's Facebook page to slam Charis for ‘butchering’ the anthem, you can't begin to imagine how much that stung.

Charis has led worship for me at the hour-long service I get to do at the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association finals every January. She has built up a great following for her music and her family are well-liked in the rodeo community.

Her heart's as big as her voice and her cowgirl style and while I think she can be as tough as anyone when she needs to be, it was hard not to take the comment personally.

Heck, I kind of took it personally when I heard about it a few weeks ago, when it happened. I called her while I was traveling through Kentucky, heading back to Tennessee, hoping a conversation would help.

That's when Charis said how seriously she takes singing the anthem above any other music she performs and couldn't believe someone could be that hateful. And despite the support she has from so many fans of her music, it made her second-guess herself.

The first point I called her attention to was that thanks to social media, we have a culture that's brave enough to say all kinds of hurtful things for no other reason than being mean because they can get away with it when it isn't face-to-face. Understanding that, it's still hard sometimes not to be affected and we know that in this culture, cyber-bullying has even contributed to suicides. We have to guard our hearts against the hateful things a coward might say when protected by the wall of cyber-space. The commenter may not have even believed what he said but had an ax to grind over something that happened at the event.

The other more important issue involved a shift in focus. I always try to help those to whom I get to minister, to look at the world through a Biblical lens to help them to keep God first.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I told Charis that even when it's the national anthem, it doesn't have to just be seen as patriotic and for the crowd.

Her passion to sing, her talent and even her audience are gifts from God and if they're used with Him as the focus, they can be acts of worship that glorify Him.

When she sings in front of that crowd at the bull riding, there's no reason it can't be done with a heart that's worshiping God and singing to Him and not the crowd.

Right before she sings that anthem, like most rodeos and bull ridings, the event is opened in prayer. The national anthem may not feel like a worship song but the hearts that sing it certainly can be in a worshipful place of God, then country.


Singer Charis Thorsell

An anthem complaint leads to a worshipful response

Postive Thinking