Full Circle

The Turn ‘Em Out Tour recently took me to my dad’s hometown –  Mayberry!

Growing up, we visited Mount Airy, North Carolina (yes, it is the actual town the Andy Griffith Show was based on!) most summers. This year, Pages Book Store hosted a Go West book signing during the annual Mayberry Days celebration. Barney Fife gave his last bullet for a copy of the book and Gomer Pyle said “Sha-zam” when he held a copy in his hands!

There’s a smell in the air, a fog in the sky, a friendliness in the community, and warmth in family and friends that makes Mount Airy feel like home. In many ways, the mountain town is exactly how I remember it from my childhood. Family still resides on the original home place at the base of Raven Knob. Snappy Lunch’s still serves the pork chop sandwich. And relatives and lifelong friends still worship at the church my forefathers help build in 1911.

On Sunday 9/24 I had the opportunity to speak in that very place; Ladonia Baptist Church. When reflecting on the experience, I’ve concluded that a circle was completed that day. I’m sure my brother realized this when he spoke there too. You see, in the 1800’s my great-great grandfather helped plan and later build the church from the ground up. My great grandfather preached from the pulpit. My grandmother sang, prayed, and worshiped from the front row. And in his youth, my dad gave his life to Christ in that very place.

My grandmother was a gifted writer. Words and lyrics flowed from her head to her pen with great ease. Her desire was the be a published poet sharing poems of Christ’s saving grace. She prayed that prayer for over 80 years! Her love for writing was passed on to my dad. Records show that he was denied by 68 publications before his first work was published. But even in the struggle, he trusted that someday, God would make a way.

As I stood there that Sunday morning, I realized…Go West is the answer to a prayer that has been prayed by generations, for generations! While the book is about my life, it is more importantly about the faith in Christ we desire to share.

Here’s the moral of the story…We may not see our prayers answered in our lifetime, but they will not go unanswered.

I’m motivated now, more than ever, to pray for my kids, grand-kids, and great grand-kids as this is proof that the prayers birthed in my life may very well be answered in their life.

National Spouse Day


Hopefully we’re not in the habit of showing our spouse genuine appreciation one day per year. But for those of us slipping, may National Spouse Day remind us that giving appreciation is always warranted.

In our family, no one is more deserving of appreciation than my wife. Jamie’s sacrifices for our family are inspirational. In a matter of 35 ½ weeks, she made 2 hearts, 2 brains, 4 lungs, 8 limbs, 40 digits, and one life changing decision. Not only did she grow two babies at once, she concluded it was far more important to see her kids thrive than her career. In that moment, she stepped out of corporate America and into a life with limited vacation and recognition.  

I’m not sure how many hats she wears or what it even takes to juggle them all. Perhaps a strong dose of selflessness mixed with an immeasurable amount of inner strength. Over the past nine years, I’ve witnessed what being a great spouse looks like done well. In turn, it’s caused me to grow closer to God, closer to her, and question how a small-town skinny boy landed a big-hearted beautiful girl.

I was 30 years old when our paths crossed and had a lot going for me!

Lived in the neighbor’s basement - Yet she believed in me.

Focused on personal goals - Yet she encouraged me.

Financially broke - Yet she never complained.

Emotionally spent - Yet she showed me compassion.

Hard to love – Yet she loved me despite myself.

Simply put, I was just north of going south - Yet she refused to let me fall.

Jamie’s sacrifices for our family motivates me to love deeper and never weaken. Unfortunately, I’ve miss my fair share of opportunities to show my appreciation. So, in honor of National Spouse Appreciate Day I just want to say…

                Baby Girl, I appreciate you more and more every day.

I suppose that when our kids reflect on who their mom is, they will hold you in the same high regards that I hold my mom…the best ever. They will talk about a strong willed, classy, determined, selfless, loving mother with high standards who expects the best of herself and of others.  For that reason alone, they will achieve more than we ever imagined possible. 

Strangely, when people are seen for who they can be, they become everything they were created to be.

Go West,


Some Days

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Almost every day is the best day of my life.

At work, people no longer ask me what kind of day I’m having. They know my reply will likely be, “It’s the best day of my life.” I learned early in my rodeo career that my attitude helped determine my altitude. While the wild west days are behind me, my life’s mission remains: Get Out, Witness, Encourage, Serve, and Testify. So, I strive to Go West, making each day count. But friends, as you well know, not every day is easy. In fact, I have “some days” – the long, hard, tough ones that can’t end soon enough!

Mother’s Days is a prime example. While the twins and I love to celebrate Jamie and her selfless sacrifices, a piece of me silently grieves for my mom.

The twins go all out to show Jamie special love – homemade cards, hugs, kisses, candy, gifts, and pretty much whatever she wants (which is usually more hugs and kisses). And Jamie eats it up! After all, it is her day. Watching our young sons celebrate their momma reflects the love I had for my momma – genuine and unconditional.

Truth be told, these last four years, I’ve worked to balance celebrating Jamie while also remembering momma. It seems like yesterday she passed away. To the is day, I still dial her number. If time in fact heals, waiting is in my future. Four years is not long enough. Meanwhile, I keep trusting the Lord to use this experience for my good and His glory. Momma would want that, too.

Thankfully, Jamie understands that grieving is a process.

This Mother’s Days we celebrated Jamie, and all the moms in her family, at her childhood home. It was awesome. Yet, I gravely missed my momma. As the kids played and we enjoyed a beautiful southern day, my mind was 15 miles away. Frankly, I wanted to escape. I thought, if I were only there, I could close my eyes and imagine her still here.

About that time, Jenn (my sister-in-law) said, let me introduce you to my “Grandma Funderburg.” Jenn continued, “Grandma is just week’s shy of 90!”

It didn’t take long to realize, Grandma Funderburg measured life in moments, not years. She was as sharp as a tack, funny as a teenager – and kept up with them, too. As she rode a four-wheeler with one and flew a drone with another, her laugh and smile eased my mind.

Spending time with this southern belle was as refreshing as sipping sweet tea out of a mason jar.

For a moment, even in the grieving, another mother helped make my heart smile. As the sun began to set, I hurried away. You see, my momma’s grave was only 15 miles away.

Jenn’s Grandma Funderburg didn’t realize it then, but she turned one of my some days in to a great day!

Here’s the morale of the story: God sends us people when we need them the most…On July 4, 2017, as we celebrate Independence Day, will you help me wish Grandma Funderburg a Happy 90th Birthday?

Go West,


My Dad

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My dad was born into poverty at the foot of Raven Knob Mountain in Mount Airy, North Carolina. "Mayberry" in the Andy Griffith Show is based off this mountain town.

His mother was a devoted Christian…his father, a cowboy drifter.

For their survival, at 7 years old, dad began working alongside grown men in the tobacco fields. Cloth sacks were his pay. His mom used the makeshift material to sew clothes for him and his two younger siblings.

By the age 9, their dad had disappeared. This selfish act left a kid, the man of the house. But instead of living in the past, my dad spent a lifetime working to become a chain breaker.

Education was one way off the tobacco farm. So, at 18, with only a few dollars in his pocket, he hitchhiked to college. Dad earned a bachelor’s degree at Cumberland College and his master’s degree at Northern Arizona University.

In 1965, he married my mom, Claudie Cruce.

In ‘66, their first son was born. This was start of dad’s conquest to become the best father that ever lived. Roughly four years later, my brother, Jay was born.

During that time, dad rose rapidly through the ranks of school administration. At 28 year’s old he was one of America’s Top 10 Outstanding Young Men and the recipient of a Harvard scholarship. Both honors he only spoke about once. He also was a gifted writer and published poet.

By the time I came along in May ’77, dad was still a driven man. In order, his priorities were God, Family, and Others. Having been impacted to the core watching his dad walk out, he was determined to be led by God and raise three God-fearing sons.

Dad had one standard. If we didn’t meet the standard, we learned to rise-up. His word was his bond. Integrity was his personal brand. He didn’t talk it – he lived it.

Dad stood for Christ. Period. He was guided by the Bible. Period.

John was his favorite book. Psalm 121, his favorite passage. Romans 5:8, his favorite scripture.

Every night dad gathered our family in the den and read scripture to us. We would each take a turn praying aloud.  At the time, I didn’t understand “why.” And quite frankly, I didn’t always want to pray, much less pray aloud.

But today, as I lead my own family, I am very grateful for his example and determination to lead us according to his faith in Christ.

He was honest to a fault. If mom asked “does this dress make me look big?” Dad couldn’t help himself – he had to tell the truth.  Granted he wasn’t perfect. But as kids, we sure thought so. He never tasted alcohol, never spoke a mean word about anyone, treated everyone fair, never cursed, or even used a word remotely close.

But if you asked him, he was the most broken of all people. No one needed God’s saving grace as much as him. No one needed to rely on the Lord more than him. No one was further from God than him.  

Perhaps my brothers, nor I, will never know the actual price he paid, sacrifices he made, or risks he took to ensure that our future would be brighter than the Mayberry sky.

My dad was a chain breaker.

Go West,


Freedom Has A Name

My heart pounded. My mind raced. Did he have a wife?... Did he have kids?... Where was he from?... What unit was he with?

It was the first time I'd been ordered to present the American flag to the family of a fallen warrior. As I assembled my uniform and studied the prescribed verbiage, I prayed that God would be in our midst. Some things take supernatural strength. Being a flagbearer is one such thing.

Nothing could prepare me for the moment when I came face to face with his grieving wife. She had questions that I couldn’t answer – brokenness that I couldn’t fix. Yet, cradled against my chest was an American flag that belonged to her. My voice cracked as I began to speak. “On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of [Service member's rank and name].” 

It was my duty to ensure this fallen warrior would never be forgotten and that his family knew his sacrifice was not in vain. As I placed the flag in his widow’s hands, it transformed from a symbol of freedom into a bitter reminder that freedom has a name.

Will you join me in remembering fallen warriors this weekend? John 15:13 states, “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.” If my calculations are right, at least two people have done that for me and for you … Jesus Christ and the American Warrior.

GO WEST this Memorial Day:

  • P ray. A special a prayer for families impacted by war.
  • E ngage. Most local VFW and/or American Legion groups have community-specific activities.
  • A sk. Families and friends of fallen warriors keep the memories alive by sharing the stories.
  • C elebrate. Fire up the grill, throw the pigskin...do something and reflect on our heros.
  • E ncourage. As you know, families are still mourning - encourage them to keep on keeping on.

Moral of the story: We celebrate Memorial Day because this day was earned – not given - by brave men and women who we shall never forget.

Go West,



Who's Jeremy!

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The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association claims, “Jeremy has one of the most impressive list of academic accomplishments in ProRodeo.” Once a small-town kid, Sparks is now a Hall of Fame bullfighter and published author.

But he is more than a cowboy with a pen. He’s a husband, father, brother, small group facilitator, business leader, veteran, and a saved by grace Christian!  Like you, Jeremy was created in the image of God, with a passion to find his way in this crazy world. Jeremy’s traveled many roads. Some were dead ends. And some led to a destiny that made his dreams come true.  

Soon after accepting Jesus Christ into his life, Sparks received a specific vision from God. At 14, God called Jeremy to be a rodeo bullfighter. He went on to become a professional bullfighter, entertaining fans and protecting cowboys around the world. At 36-years old, Jeremy became the youngest cowboy ever enshrined in the famous Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Hall of Fame. He earned his MBA, and served in the Air Force, where he was endorsed by the Pentagon as the “only professional bullfighter in the history of the USAF.” Jeremy continues to serve in the Air National Guard.

Every scar tells a story and o' do he have both! So pull your hat down tight and get ready to grow. The 10 Principles That Guided His Cowboy Journey, will help you turn life experiences into a God-given perspective.

Fun Facts

  • Jeremy grew up a tiny town of 150 people; Fountain Hill, Arkansas.
  • He married his college crush, Jamie Jo, a true southern belle…8 years after college! (She wasn’t into cowboys then – so she says)
  • From 2004-2007, he operated the world’s most powerful weapon system; the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.
  • His oldest son lives in Hungary.
  • Jeremy and Jamie have twin sons; Smiley and Mischief.
  • He once went to China just to play hacky sack on the Great Wall.
  • His traveling partner, R. Larry Lassister calls him Gerald Oliver West, or "G.O." for short. And you can too!