A Start-Again DadStory


Photo: Getting ready to break’em in at the Buck Creek St. Jude Trail Ride in Alamo, TN.

It was quite a morning. Crisp fall weather made the horses lively to begin with. While my dad’s mount has been on rides in the past, my little steed had not been off the farm since arriving on the premises since he was 2 years ago- maybe 10 or 12 years ago. Horses seem to arrive on the old homestead but never leave. It was time to turn this pasture rat into a lean, mean, trail-eating machine.

We were saddling up for the Buck Creek St. Jude Trail Ride, West Tennessee’s largest trail ride and a huge moneymaker for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We had never attended in the past. Along with the fun day of horseback riding and helping a great cause, my dad and I needed the chance to get a couple of horses ready for a 3-day trail ride later this month.

Every sight, sound, and moving tree branch got ol’ Sonny’s attention. There were horses as far as the eye could see, and he was on sensory overload. Dead-broke, but green and unpredictable in the new environment, this promised to be interesting.

 

A little about me and my cowboy cred- I’ve ridden all my life. Trail rides, chasing calves, riding buckers bareback in the pasture, 4-H horse shows, raising and training foals, and rehabilitating former race horses into moldable hunter-jumpers or fox hunting mounts are all a part of my resume. Riding was a huge part of my life until I went off to college.

Then, like so many things in life, horse-related activity came to a stand still. I left some things undone, like the colt I raised but never quite got trained. I left some things neglected- my old saddle I bought when I was 12 with money I earned working construction with my dad.

I came back home, and as I started building a life with a family of my own, riding and working the farm didn’t materialize as priorities. Time remained stopped on these old childhood dreams for a while yet. I married, worked, started and finished 2 college degrees, had children, and started a career.

The story has been told time and again- you never know what you’ve got until you try to live without it. The refrain over and over is that children grow up and leave the farm for better things, only to return to their roots in agriculture and rural living. Prodigals returning. I guess that’s me.

Change, even desired change, is very difficult. Change is especially difficult when you look back and realize the distance and the effort it will take to get to where you want to be. I’ve experienced it all. Physical health, higher education, relationships, and especially ministry and Christian living. In each of these areas, I have looked back and wondered, “How did I get so far from where I should be? And can I ever get back on track?”

The answer to the first question doesn’t matter so much, at least not at first. What is important is understanding that getting where you want to be in any area of life begins with deciding on a first step and taking it. Then, it’s a series of steps over time that gets you to the outcome you want. Guilt will try to overtake you because of the things you neglected or the time you wasted. There’s nothing to be done about that now. Guilt is counterproductive; it will stop you from acting. And action is paramount to achieving.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NLT

‬‬God gives grace. First Corinthians 13:13 speaks of faith, hope, and love. Hope is best defined as having determination and direction- a will and a way. In this scriptural context, faith provides the will, and love is the way. Hope falls in the overlap of faith and love, so if you have no faith, you have no hope. If you have no love, you have no hope. You may be driven and you may have a plan to achieve what you want in life, but without the faith in God and the love of Jesus Christ, you’ll never overcome the times of crushing doubt about the future, or guilt about the past.

It is amazing the difference 20 miles under saddle will make in a horse. Sonny has a long way to go, but he got a good start today. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an achievement. I have a long way to go, too. My steps so far have been slow and sometimes faltering. But I want to see my boys have the benefit of knowing Jesus, family, and a few good horses in their lifetime. I want to build something that’s ours under God. Something meaningful. And there is no way to do that, other than to start.

You want to start something today? Let me know; I’d love to hear about it.

 

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