{mosimage}There’s cowboy music in the air. Literally. It’s coming from loudspeakers and fiddle players on the street corners. You can hear the commentator calling out the times for bull riders and bronc riders. It’s Stampede week in Ponoka and everybody’s a cowboy.

I remember my first experience in this distinct culture. I borrowed a cowboy hat and bought a western-style shirt to go with my jeans. It felt like I fit right in. Then I went into a local restaurant. And I was stopped dead in my cowboy boots. The place was full of cowboys. Real cowboys - the guys who get up on those enormous bulls and bucking horses. I pulled the cowboy hat off. I listened to the conversations around me and realized I most certainly did not fit right in. When faced with the real thing, my clothes were just a costume that didn’t change who I was, or rather, who I wasn’t. I was playing a game. These guys were living it.

I gave that cowboy hat back to my friend. I think I gave the western shirt away. They didn’t really fit very well.

I had another experience like this once, in an auditorium at a Bible college. A new Christian, I was still learning how a Christian should act and dress and speak. I was getting comfortable in that culture. Then the main speakers for the morning were introduced. They were from an area of Africa where it wasn’t safe to admit you were a Christian. All of them had been beaten. All of them had been in prison. As they told their stories, focusing on the greatness of God, the love and mercy of God, I sank a little lower in my seat. These guys were the real thing - the kind of Christians who have been tried and tested and came out as pure gold.

I began to wonder if I was just playing a game.

That incident led me into a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Wearing a dress and going to church on Sunday with a Bible in my hand didn’t make me a Christian any more than wearing a cowboy hat made me a cowboy. When faced with the real thing, I realized there was much more. I didn’t give my Bible away or stop doing the things Christians should do, but I began to seek to understand the greatness of God, the love and mercy of God, the way those men from Africa did. Slowly the Bible felt more comfortable in my hand, because God’s Word was in my heart. As I grow in my relationship with Christ and try to follow Him, I’m becoming the real thing.

Jesus said – "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him" (John 6:55,56).

Not everybody’s a cowboy. But everybody can become a real Christian.

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife and freelance writer living in Alberta Canada.  Her devotional book, The Spur of the Moment has been endorsed by Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and others.  To order, and to view more of Marcia's writing, see her web site - www.vinemarc.com
Copyright Marcia Lee Laycock, 2000, 2001,2002,2003,2004