The Greeks had a word for a person who played a role that did not represent who they full were.  The wore a mask; altered their voice; they pretended.  Thanks to some real words from some people close to me, I see that mask wearing isn’t just for the Greeks.

It was John Wooden who said, “leadership from a base of hypocrisy undeRmines respect.”  It is true that I deserve no respect in what I teach and preach.

A sabbatical is due from teaching and preaching.  It is clear that I have been putting on the mask for far too long.  I will finish up the summer next week in Omaha at the youth weekend there and then seek employment for the year.  It has been a fun run but I apologize for those I have articially built up and those who I have let down.

The funny thing about masks is, if you don’t take them off when you out grow them they can sometimes become a part of you.

Rodeo Ministry…part 2

There were a few people left out of my last post and for good reason. Every once in a while a Cowboy is “blessed” with a handful of girls to raise. Over the last few years, I have been blessed to watch them raise their daughters. While I feel the fastest disintegrating relationship in the world is the father/son relationship, the father/daughter one is at the top of the list as well.

I am a firm believer that the original sin was not Eve eating of the fruit in the garden, but the silence of Adam during the whole event. While trying not to get to preachy, I feel like the major sin in my life right now is the lack of leadership that I take in the home. I don’t provide, protect, and project a Godly direction within my home, for my wife, like I should sometimes. The Pope on his nine-day Central America Trip said it best today when he exclaimed: “The Family is something in this world that no organization could ever replace.” Simpliefied: “Save the family, save the world”.

I left men out of the last post for this reason: 1) I didn’t want to jinx myself and wake up one day with 4 daughters and no sons…hauling a 4 horse barrel racing slant trailer and complaining about dirt the whole time! 2) Father’s of daughters have it rough in today’s world.

I do rodeo ministry because I see so many Dad’s and daughters connect through the sport. I think it is easier for Dad to understand the barrel pattern than it is for him to understand the third position of ballet. I want to be involved in a place where Dad’s feel comfortable…it certainly seems like the rodeo arena is one of those places.

I do rodeo ministry because watching men like Brian, Ronnie, Chad, Brad, Kevin, Tally, and Dirk, work with their daughters, help me understand better what I need to do to serve and honor my wife. These are Dad’s who have raised tough girls who know their identities and who they were created to be. The way they invest in their daughters, helps me invest in my wife.

I do rodeo ministry because watching the aforementioned men take care of their daughters makes me pity their future husbands. Let me explain: I have had numerous conversations with young men who are engaged or recently married. Their struggle: Dad had set such a high standard for men in their life that now Joe Fiancée or Joe husband cant quite measure up…wouldn’t that be a great gift to give a son-in-law. You wanna date one of them…you better be up to the standard their father sets.

Watching these dad’s in action, raise the bar for me. I learn every second that I get to watch them in action, talking barrel and pole runs, goat strings, and breakaway ropes. Once again, I do rodeo ministry because the people that I run into every week.

My heart and passion is to become they type of man represented by the guys I mention every week. I hope to learn from them and from God’s word what it means to be a man, hustband, and father. It’s rodeo ministry at its best!

Why Rodeo Ministry?

I was sitting at a table reading over a message at Rodeo Bible Camp when I was asked by the worship leader, Jeff, a simple question: “Why?” After 4 weeks on the road, 3 rodeos and 4 Rodeo Bible camps, he wanted to know “why” rodeo ministry was where I landed. I wasn’t raised on a horse, didn’t own cattle, and my grandma’s still think I ride bulls, so it was a pretty fair question.

I answered him, but felt it necessary to inform you. It may shock you but I am not chained to rodeo. Rodeo allows me to do what I love to do with the people I love to do it with, but Rodeo is not end-all-be-all for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love every aspect of it, but there is a different drive that I can only explain through history.

Truman Long, 1955
Truman Long, 1955

My grandfather, my dad’s dad, Truman, passed away when my father was 20 and in the army. They were not the closest. My father was the oldest of three, and from what I can tell, my grandfather and my uncle had more in common than dad and him did. Truman worked a lot, providing for his family, but when it came down to connecting with Dad, I don’t get the impression that they were really close. Grandpa Truman passed away from a blood clot entering his heart when my father was away in the army. My dad and I have never been able to connect like other father’s and sons, probably because my dad didn’t get the chance to connect well with his.

When it came down to it, my Dad loves sports. He tried to get me to love golf, but I stunk. He coached me in basketball and t-ball, both of which I liked but never excelled at. I was good at bowling, but it was something he tried but never got into. We hunted together and spent every opening weekend from 12-18 out in western Kansas chasing pheasants. In 8th grade he took me hog hunting in south Texas and I shot a massive boar and that is how we connected. When I went to college, hunting took a backseat. Time never seemed to be in my favor. But we did always have time to go to the buckouts down at Domer Arena, or to watch the PBR on TV. We had no idea what it would lead to, but we enjoyed it.

When I was born, my Dad was 22 years old. I was 9 by the time he was the age I am now. Whatever perceived mistakes he made, I know I could not have done any better. I guess it is shocking that my dog is still alive. He was a young man when I was born…I cant hold anything against him.

So back to my question: “why?” If you were to approach me today with a hunting ministry, dirt bike ministry, chess club ministry, or a tattoo ministry, that would put father’s and son’s, men and kids, boy’s and adult’s into a mentoring relationships, I would sell my bullfighting pads and follow you to wherever to make it happen.

Rodeo is the BEST…I will say it again, the BEST, way for me to help strengthen the father/son; boy/adult bond that I have found. In T-ball, Dad helps with practice and sets in the dugout during games; but in Rodeo, I see father/son team roping duo’s. In basketball, they shoot on the hoop outside at night; but in Rodeo, Dad is pulling his rope and pulling gates.

I rodeo because I like to think that my Dad and his Dad would have done it together. I rodeo because Dad and I (though we donated to the pot last year) will bring home a pay check in the dummy ropin’ this year. I rodeo because that is something we both connected by watching and learning when I was a kid.

  • I rodeo because I watch Brandt helping Stratton down on his pony and roping the dummy with Gentry.
  • I rodeo because I see Doug teaching Bronc about positioning and timing and working with his horse.
  • I rodeo because I see Tyler Dees helping his 3 year old on a sheep.
  • I rodeo because Mr. Lewis is pulling Justin’s rope, Dusty is telling Brandon to “go to the nose” or Chad is accepting a challenge fro Cade or Cauy.
  • I rodeo because Mr. Dame is pulling gates while his boys are helping others set their ropes.
  • I rodeo because bull riding means just as much for Ethan to ride than it does for Tim to watch.
  • I rodeo because, though Zane might not love Rodeo, Chad who does, still invests in his own kids the way he does others.
  • I rodeo because men like Scott and Ed raised their kids in rodeo and they are closer for it.
  • I rodeo because Bret taught life lessons to his 3 sons who have learned more about life because they grew up on the road
  • I rodeo because some don’t have Dad’s there and I cant help that…but hope to make it like they did.
  • I rodeo because men like George Steinberger was a father to more than just his kids through rodeo
  • I rodeo because of the many other examples who I left out, who live life alongside their kids on the road 30 weekends a year learning more than Spongebob on TV could ever impart.
  • I rodeo because every moment I have spent with Brian, Jason, Chad, Brandt, Doug, and the others has made me a little bit better.
  • I rodeo because someday maybe Daniel, Vincent, Thomas, Bandy, and I can be those dad’s.
  • I rodeo because I would have like to think that great grandpa would have if he had the chance…I think Dad would have.

If you told me that there was a better way for me to learn to be a dad, to help strengthen the family’s relationships to each other and to God, or to help people grow closer to Christ, I am all ears…if you could just wait a few years that would be even better!

So thanks Dad for taking me to the Expo, for buying the tickets and the nachos.  Thanks for explaining what “the Star-Spangled Banner” was and what it meant.  Thanks for being there to watch me fight bulls and I hope you will be there to help me get your grandkids on bulls.  Thanks Dad, you weren’t perfect, but you were always there to try!

Union Preacher: How one soldier provided me a ministry experience

William Irelan with his eye patch from a bullet at Missionary Ridge.  Founder of Central Park Christian Church and Central Avenue Christian Church (now Northland)
William Irelan with his eye patch from a bullet at Missionary Ridge. Founder of Central Park Christian Church and Central Avenue Christian Church (now Northland)

It only seems fitting that on July 4th, we celebrate the temporal freedom provided for us by the sacrifice of the American Soldier and the eternal freedom given to us by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  Every so often the expression of both freedoms is pointed to in one man’s life.  This is the story of one such man.

At the start of the 1890’s, the south west area of Topeka was in need of a Christian Church. That observation was made by William Irelan (1837-1911) a recent newcomer to the Capital City. Willaim Irelan was born in Cedarville, Ohio on 25 July 1837. He was the first of seven children. Born just after the Restoration Movement of Churches began. It was Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Presbyterian trained clergy, who led a spiritual movement centered on unity and biblical dependence that gained a following that called themselves “disciples”. At the same time, Barton W. Stone’s, in a similar yet unrelated movement, had been followed by a group of dissenters from the Presbyterian Church calling themselves “Christians”. These two groups joined together on 31 Dec 1831 in Lexington, Kentucky starting the Restoration movement.

He attended the common school in Ohio and a select school in Burnettsville, Indiana [history] where he would teach upon graduation. After teaching for a few years, Irelan became principal of the Burnettsville school [history]. In 1861 he left Burnettsville for a teaching job in Minnesota at Belle Plain for a term. Belle Plain just wasn’t home however, and he returned to White Co, and Burnetsville until the Civil War began.

With the nation divided over the issue of succession and slavery, William Irelan joined the war at the age of 25. On 25 July 1862 he volunteered to serve the Union army at Burnettsville, Indiana. He was enrolled in the 12th Indiana Volunteers under the leadership of Capt George Bowman, a fellow educator who left his job as Monticello principal to raise a unit to join the war effort. [history] Irelan enlisted as a private in “D” company, he marched out south to Kentucky 21 Aug 1862. For a little over a year, Irelan saw all facets of the Union effort. His unit was captured at Richmond (a month after enrolling), exchanged later, sent about guarding supply trains, and laying siege to southern cities like Vicksburg (3 weeks) and Jackson (1 week). Irelan was well liked in the company, and was promoted to Corpral as “he served with bravery in the Union ranks.”

On 25 Nov 1863, Bowman’s unit was called into action at the Battle of Missionary Ridge overlooking the Tennessee River near the Tennesse-Georgia line. The previous day, the Union Army was victorious at Lookout Mountain just south and west of Missionary Ridge. The Confederate army, under command of Gen. Bragg fled north and east the high ground on Missionary Ridge, allowing Gen. Hooker to join the Union assault orderd by Maj. Gen. Ulysees S. Grant.   As the Union Army charged up the hill toward the Confederate lines, Capt. Bowman was “severely wounded in the left thigh, and was carried off the field as dead.” [history 215]. William Irelan too was shot, the bullet passing through his right eye. [hamelle 131] Capt. Bowman, after two weeks in a Nashville Hospital, recovered from his ‘death’ and was sent home alongside Corporal Irelan. William was official discharged 6 Feb 1864 to return home to Monticello.

william irelan enlistment company d The year 1864 would be a busy one for William Irelan. Not only would he be discharged from the infantry with wounds from battle, but he would marry his wife, Clementine E. Buessing in Burnetsville, Indiana on 13 Oct 1864 and she would be his wife for the next 36 years. The Irelan’s would welcome 5 children into the world over the next several years: Clifford, Otto, Owen, Elmer, and daughters Elma, Irma.

Upon returning from the war and starting a family, Willaim decided to enter the ministry. Both he and Clemintine enrolled in Northwestern Christian Universtiy (now Butler University) in Indianapolis. The university was founded by the Disciples of Christ and was known for turning out ministers. Both William and Clementine graduated in 1872. William graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in 1872 and his Masters of Arts in 1875. [Brown churches 1904]

Prior to entering school, he made his return to the field of education where he took over the position previously vacated by Capt. Bowman as the School Principal of Monticello. For 2 years he remained in that position. In 1867, Irelan took the pasotrate at Burnettsville Christian Church, which he would occupy for 3 years (’67-’70), where he also served as the Co-examiner of White County Schools (‘66-’69). After serving in his home state of Indiana, Irelan packed up his family and move to East Fairfield, Ohio for 18 months. For the next few years he would bounce between ministry and education. On the education side he was revered. It was said that: “Few men in the country more popular or honored” and he was known for his work equipping and training teachers [Hamelle, 131]. His ministries included Wolcott, Indiana; a second stint at Bernettsville; Lawrence, Kansas; Eureka Springs; and Central Avenue Christian Church (now known as Northland Christian Church) from 1891-93. He ended his last pastorate in 1893, but was always involved in ministry. He was the Kansas Legislature’s Chaplain from 1897-98, where he served in the Capitol building, which was nearing completion of the dome during his tenure (Image of Dome). During his time as Chaplain of the Legislature, Irelan was appointed to draft the constitution for the Kansas State Missionary Societies Order of Operations in 1897.

It was during this stint in Topeka that William Irelan was foundational in the beginning of Central Park Christian Church. As he lived in Topeka, he realized the need for a church on the south west side of Topeka. William and Clementine financed the upstart Bible school until the church could start. He rented a room above Zanes Hall in 1896, furnished it and financed the undertaking until the church could get going. For years, Irelan would provide finances, leadership, stability, and oversight to the fledgling congregation, until he moved to Mexico to assist his daughter with her mission work in Monterey, Mexico.

Irelan would see the cornerstone of the stone building that sat at 16th and Buchanaan until the present structure was built.   He gave a speech on the morning of 12 April 1905, giving a history of the Church at the present location.

William Irelan died 9 Oct 1911 in Monterey, Mexico of paralysis (state Journal 10/11/1911 pg 7 col 2) He was buried in the Topeka Cemetery (photo) where his grave stone reads “SERGT. CO.D. 12 IND INF” a reminder of his days in the Union Army.

Just a soldier/preacher who made it possible for me, 110 years later to get my feet wet in ministry.  I wonder what he would say as he saw the church today?

Hepler Rodeo Bible Camp: There’s a First Time for Everything

Scott Brooks and Cody Norris handling the Pick-up duties
Scott Brooks and Cody Norris handling the Pick-up duties

Sometimes you wake up Monday morning and can plan your entire week…this was not one of those weeks.

Back in March, I received a phone call from a good friend of mine named Dave. He told me that they wanted to do a Rodeo Bible Camp in Hepler, Ks. (I will give you a second to google it…because I had too). He had given my name to a guy named Chuck who I had met a few years back at the Fort Scott College Rodeo. Chuck and his wife Darlinda had started a Cowboy Church and Ministry in Hepler, Kansas called Cross Trials Cowboy Ministry and were haulin’ kids to rodeos and reaching out in the community. They thought the next step was to do a Rodeo Bible Camp.

Chuck called me one day at the school at the end of March during 7th grade lunch and asked me to come down to help out. He needed a bullfighter and a speaker. It was lunch time and loud so I didn’t get much of the conversation, but the week was booked. Through the hustle and bustle of summer, the week arrived quicker than I had expected. With the task of preaching on my mind, I knew I needed some help in the arena so I asked a friend of mine, fellow youth pastor and bullfighter, Brent Noe to accompany my wife and I to the two-way-stop-metropolis of Hepler. On the way down, Tricia asked questions about camp and Brent and I had no answers….she knew as much as we did. That is the thing about camps and their first year: you never really know what to expect.

We were blown away. By now, if you had been keeping up with our travels, you know that each camp has a different feel and atmosphere. Gardner has been doing camp for years and Ed, Scott, and the crew just make it happen with their consistency and details. It has always been fun to go and be part of the crew, talk with people who struggle the same as I do, and be just one of guys. Nevada has always been family, with people who are in your life constantly, ready to encourage and build up, to serve and support. Unionville has always been a place where I can go and get away from all the things that have been weighing me down. They knew I was a youth pastor, but I didn’t have to be when I was there. I had little responsibility and I loved being able to be the fun guy without thinking about the insurance. So what was Hepler?

First off, it was a Rodeo Bible Camp tied to a Church (which I loved). My role in life has always been stated clearly in Ephesians 4.12: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” When Church’s do camps, the connection, ownership, and follow up occure more naturally than when an organization does it. I’m not saying its better or worse, just simpler. With some camps the natural inclination is to say “see you next year” but with a camp that is tied directly to a Church, the simple phrase “see you next week” can be said. On top of that, the ministry conversations that I had with Chuck, Darlinda, Jeff, and Scott forever changed the way I will view ministry and brought real world application to the stories of Acts 7. Chuck is one of the most gifted men behind the chutes with students that I have ever seen. This man is hauling 6 kids to rodeos all over SE Kansas and doing life in the chutes, hanging flanks, and pulling bull ropes. The kids saw it, responded to it, and respected it. That is a pastor who’s covered in the same dirt they are, just like Paul would have been if he was a rodeo man (1 Cor. 9.22).

Secondly, they were a group wanting to do things right. Gardner has been around 22 or so years; Unionville, 10; and Nevada, 9. They took their lumps and learned from them. They put on awesome camps now because they have seen the fruits of their dilegence, God’s provision and blessing, and experience. Hepler will get there some day. There wasn’t a single thing that went on that the people didn’t ask Scott, or Brent, or I about afterwards. They wanted to learn, wanted opinions, and wanted to think things through. I forget about people sometimes. I forget that others have wisdom to impart. There wasn’t an opportunity wasted to talk about the future and to dream.

As I look back on the week of camp that we were blessed to be apart of, only one thing bothers me: Did I present the Gospel clear enough?

For many of the other camps, many campers had been regulars. I looked out the first night of preaching and saw students who had forged a relationship with Chuck and Darlinda and were on the first steps of a journey with Jesus. Did I do my part faithfully to what God had called me too? Was Jesus made clear and everything else fuzzy? Was my path to the cross short enough in the message?

Meeting of the Minds
Meeting of the Minds

I looked out that first night and saw students struggling to find verses in their Bibles. Kids without a foundation in the word were trying to keep up. The role of the teacher in that moment is to make it as clear as possible how much God loves these students and what He did to save them. The question haunts in the back of my mind: was it clear? I pray that journey’s were started that week and that the message, despite my weakness and unclarity, was deposited firmly in their hearts.

It was truly a blessing to get to say that I was part of that camp and Chuck, Darlinda, Dave, Dusty, Cody, Jeff, Brent and the rest of the Cross Trails Cowboy Ministry immensely blessed us that week.

Chariton Hills Rodeo Bible Camp

Jake and Chase talking to the Bullriders
Jake and Chase talking to the Bullriders

I realized during the week of Chariton Hills Rodeo Bible Camp that I am not as young as I used to be and not nearly as wise as I hope to be.

Chariton Hills Camp has always held a special place in my heart. When I first was asked to help out 5 years ago, I knew absolutely no one at the camp and had no idea Unionville, Mo even existed. Every year I get to return to the Putnam Co. Fairgrounds, it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to some of the best people I know. With men like Kevin and Steve, Jason and Jeremy, Ben, Tom, and Rich; running around camp, I cant think of a better place to spend a week of summer.

This year was especially fun because somewhere over the last year I grew up (check that); grew older somehow. It all started with a phone call back in May when one of our bull riding instructors had fallen through and we had to find a new one ASAP. I made a call to a young man who I had seen ride bulls for the last few years named Jake Drews. Between him and Chase Hamlin, we had the bull riding covered but something else happened as well, they jumped into the camp mindset. They played football every minute of free time, sat with the guys and talked, and ate a ton of ice cream. These young men that I had watched grow up, now were the ones others were watching.

Tricia and I sat and watches as Jake and Chase occupied the attention of the campers. We realized we had gotten older when Jake, Chase, Brittney, and Ashley wanted to challenge us to a game of basketball. Thinking it would be around dinner or during free time, we agreed. When they arrived to take us on at 11:00 pm, it wasn’t going to happen. That is bed time now!

Camp keeps me young…but I hope it makes me wise too.

Some of my favorite moments of camp came between the bull rides or between barrel runs. Talks with Chase and Jake about riding bulls and life; talks with Steve about roping, ranching, and serving the church and the community; talks with Tom about ministry and Rich about feeding the sheep. Time for those talks are rare.

Camps are hard on marriages sometimes. Rodeo has a way of spreading people thin, so when you get to sit and talk with people for a while, you want to take advantage of that. Between the ever-willing-to-listen and timely advice of Pastor/Funeral Home Director Kevin, President Jason, and Worship Leader Ben, it was a week of learning all the things I wished I had learned in my first couple years of marriage.

Spending the week stuck somewhere between energetic youth and wise sage, trying to learn from both, was what made this camp great. I spoke, but felt like I learned more than anything. Every year we pull out of Unionville, I feel more like a camper than I did staff or bullfighter. God had been hammering on me about the things I thought I had figured out. A man is self-reliant. A man is always sure of his abilities. Leadership can only be done from above.

Tricia in the Home of the Putnam County Midgets
Tricia in the Home of the Putnam County Midgets

Learning to be a part of a community that takes care of one another and learning to be taken care of is a process that everyone needs to go through. Even the greatest of men still question themselves sometimes and its often the guy who’s taking out the trash, pushing out steers, serving the cheesy-taters, or haulin’ panels who’s leading…you just might not recognize it.