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Holding the Ball



By Brandon Baumgarten

Did you play basketball in high school? Did you ever notice how some teams would hold on to the ball for extended periods of time? The strategy is to eliminate as much time off the clock as possible and close out the quarter with the lead. Some teams do this. Other teams do it more frequently than others. It’s grueling to watch as a spectator as you watch the game evaporate as the team just holds possession of the ball. However, things are changing.

In fact, in Oregon, things are about to change when it comes to high school basketball. Their state just voted on adding a 35 second shot clock for the 2023-2024 season. No doubt, this move will increase the pace of the game and create more scoring opportunities.

The problem has become many people want to hold on to the ball too long without doing much with it. I could not help to think this week of how this scenario relates to our faith in God. It is one thing to have opportunity, but it is another thing to make the most of it.

There are many Christians who are holding the ball. God has literally changed them from the inside out, but instead of sharing that power and influence with others, we often don’t. We allow the clock to run down and limit our chances of scoring for God. Imagine if the empowered church of God not only felt changed, but lived changed too. Have you been keeping the life changing power of Jesus Christ to yourself? I’ve been there before. I don’t always share as much as I should, but I do know time is quickly ticking and the shot clock is counting down.

What we will do from here depends on our faith and action? Imagine if the disciples would have kept all their accounts of Jesus’s life to themselves, we would have never known what happened. Instead, they shared and chose to take what God had given them to the world. Will we choose to share the life changing power of the Gospel? Will we take our shot before our time expires?

The lights are on. The game is going. The world is watching. The clock is ticking. Warriors for Christ: The ball is in your court. May we choose to make the most of it!

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” -James 4:14 (NIV)

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Country Lifestyle

Western Housewives – June 2024



Life consists of small events that define us. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as eating cake with your two-year-old at midnight at your sister’s wedding. Sometimes, it’s something as painful as taking your two-week-old to the emergency room with RSV and living there for a week. Both are moments that changed me, and both are moments that I’ll remember forever.

Often my defining moments have happened on the back of a horse. I guess that is because that is where I have spent most of my life. It has made me pay special attention to each horse I have ridden during different stages of my life.

My first horse was a big bay horse that was must have reminded me of Greek mythology because it took me about two seconds to name him “Hercules.” He was the perfect mount for a five-year-old that acted tough but was secretly scared of her own shadow. Once I got Hercules, I could start going to work with my dad. We gathered wheat pastures and road pens, and he let me sit in the round pen on Hercules while he worked his sale horses. At the ripe age of five I was a pretty seasoned pen rider and had the sour disposition to prove it.

One morning we had a lot of wheat pasture freshies to turn out. Naturally, they ran off as soon as they got off the truck. Babies cry, and wheat pasture cattle run off the truck; I don’t make the rules.

My Dad had to leave me and get in front of the herd to keep them from crashing into the fence. I’m sure he told me just to stay put, but Hercules got excited by all the commotion and started following the impending stampede. Now I realize that I was safe the entire time, but, at that moment, I was certain my life was over. I was dramatic even as a youngster. Would Hercules ever stop? Would he try and jump the sprinkler tracks? What if he runs through the hot wire? And most importantly, what will I tell my friends?

About the time I was ready to jump into the dirt my Dad ran up beside me and helped me stop Hercules. I was safe, my adrenaline was pumping and I was promised an Allsup’s Coke for all my troubles. That was a defining moment in my life. I realized the more danger you got yourself in to, the much bigger the condolence award. As long as I was able to keep it to an Allsup’s Coke level of danger I would be just fine.

The next horse I truly loved was named “Alotofbull” He was anything but full of bull. He was big, cowy, and athletic. He scared me just a little but that’s what made me love him the most. My Dad and I won countless events on Alotofbull. My Dad has true horsemanship pumping through his veins, but I can only credit my riding success to Alotofbull. He made things easy for me and I felt I was nothing without him.

Even after all the ribbons, the moment I remember the most about him wasn’t in the showpen. it was in the middle of nowhere on a place we called “The Cain.” The Cain was where I spent many fall afternoons and summer mornings. It was full of Sandhills, cactus that were found of my backside every time my seat left the saddle, and absolutely no sign of civilization.  We would push cows to water, move pastures, and do other slow-paced things that were good for the horse and for the mind. I loved it there.

One afternoon in the middle of June, my Dad and I were moving some cattle to water. After we were done we came upon a set of old pens that my Dad had branded calves in with his Dad a long time ago. My Dad got quiet and solemn. Traits that were unusual for him. He started to reminisce of times long ago and told me how much he wished all his kids had gotten to know his Dad before he had passed away many years prior. I was only 14 at the time, and I was having trouble holding back tears myself. I leaned forward and played with Alotofbull’s black mane. I knew my grandfather had been a special man and I knew my Dad had cherished him. It made me see my Dad in a different light going forward. Yes, he was strong and resilient, but he was also human, just like the rest of us. He had a vulnerability in his life, too. It was a moment that taught me not to be afraid to talk about the hard stuff but to always press on. No matter what.

Many years later, I found myself in beautiful Oklahoma on a horse named “Reuben.” He was my then-boyfriend’s horse and was the only quick and little horse I had ever ridden. He was spunky and made me feel like better help than I was as we gathered pairs to wean that morning.

The sun was just coming up over the cottonwood trees, making the dewy grass shine. I looked over at the man beside me and just knew I would spend the rest of my life doing this very thing with him. I didn’t care if we ever had money or much of anything, really. As long as we were together, loving God, and riding good horses, I didn’t care about anything else.

About 12 hours later, after a long day and a few incidents that may or may not have involved me getting run over by a yearling, that same man proposed to me. We had never talked about it out loud, but I guess God had put it in both of our hearts. It was a moment that, of course, changed the rest of my life. It taught me not to overthink things when they are right and that an Oklahoma cowboy was just what my life needed.

I’ve had many horses and many defining moments in my life. Sometimes, I have loved the horse, and sometimes, I have not. The same goes for the moments. Nevertheless, each horse and moment has taught me something. After all this time, I am convinced that no matter how old I get, I will never be too old to ride a good horse because I will never be too old for a defining moment.

That being said, if one or two of my life lessons could involve another Allsup’s Coke, that’d be all right by me.

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Country Lifestyle

A Beginners Guide to Fishing



It seems that the subjects of countless profiles in the past year have mentioned, whether in passing or as part of a larger discussion, that the COVID-19 pandemic changed Oklahoma’s landscape in numerous ways. By and large, the overwhelming observation is that Okies in urban areas have begun migrating to the country, and are embracing the rural lifestyle. Small farms are popping up with a variety of animals, and gardens are being planted where there wasn’t one before.

It made me think that there are likely people out there who don’t know the basics of one of Oklahoma’s favorite pastimes: fishing.

With countless lakes, rivers, and streams teeming with a diverse array of fish species, Oklahoma offers ample opportunities for anglers of all ages and skill levels to cast their lines and reel in memorable catches.

If you’re new to fishing and eager to dip your toes into the water, don’t be afraid. Here are a few basic concepts to get you started.

Understanding Oklahoma’s Fishing Scene

Before you embark on your angling adventure, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with Oklahoma’s diverse fishing opportunities. From largemouth bass in the renowned Lake Texoma to catfish in the Red River, each region of the state offers its own distinct fishing experience. Consult resources such as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website and local fishing guides to discover prime fishing spots near you and learn about the regulations and licensing requirements specific to Oklahoma waters.

Gear Up

One of the first steps in getting started with fishing is acquiring the necessary gear. For beginners, a basic fishing rod and reel combo will suffice. Opt for a versatile spinning or spincast reel paired with a medium-action rod, which offers flexibility and ease of use for a variety of fishing techniques. Additionally, invest in essential tackle such as hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and a selection of artificial lures or live bait, depending on your preferred fishing style and target species.

Learn the Ropes

Before you hit the water, take some time to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of fishing. Practice tying basic fishing knots, which are essential for securing your line and attaching hooks and lures. Watch online tutorials or consult instructional books and videos tailored to beginner anglers to learn casting techniques, proper rod handling, and best fish handling practices.

Choose Your Fishing Spot

Oklahoma boasts an abundance of fishing hotspots, ranging from expansive reservoirs and scenic rivers to hidden ponds and urban lakes. Consider factors such as proximity, accessibility, and the type of fish you’re targeting when selecting your fishing spot. Popular destinations for beginners include Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, Lake Thunderbird near Norman, and the Illinois River in northeastern Oklahoma, known for its scenic beauty and excellent trout fishing.

There are also countless farm ponds, but, I hope it goes without saying, you must obtain the land-owner’s permission to access their lands and fish their ponds.

Follow Fishing Regulations

Before you embark on your fishing excursion, familiarize yourself with Oklahoma’s fishing regulations and licensing requirements. The ODWC website provides up-to-date information on fishing seasons, bag limits, size restrictions, and license fees. Remember to obtain a valid fishing license and any additional permits required for specific fishing locations or species, as failure to comply with regulations can result in fines and penalties.

Practice Patience and Persistence

Fishing is as much about patience and persistence as it is about skill and technique. Be prepared to spend time waiting for the fish to bite, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t reel in a trophy catch on your first outing. Experiment with different baits, lures, and fishing techniques, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from experienced anglers or local bait shops. You’ll soon become more proficient and confident in your fishing abilities with practice and perseverance.

By gearing up with the right equipment, learning essential fishing skills, choosing the perfect fishing spot, following regulations, and embracing patience and persistence, beginners can set themselves up for a rewarding and enjoyable fishing experience in the Sooner State.


Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). “Fishing Regulations.”

ODWC. “Fishing in Oklahoma.”

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Country Lifestyle

Lacey’s Pantry – Beef Chimichangas



Servings: 8

Total Time: 1 hour


1-2 cups vegetable oil

½ cup diced white onion

2 tsp minced garlic

½ TBSP chili powder

¼ tsp oregano

½ tsp ground cumin

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ to a full can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilis

8 (burrito-sized) flour tortillas, warmed

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Toppings: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, queso


Brown hamburger meat and onions in a large skillet until onions are slightly softened. Add in garlic chili powder, oregano and cumin. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Rotel. Cook and stir another five minutes. Set aside.

Warm tortillas in the microwave. On each tortilla, place about ½ cup of meat mixture. Do not overfill. Top with shredded cheese. Fold sides over the meat and cheese, then fold bottom over the sides and roll up. Place all folded chimichangas, seam side down, on a large plate and repeat with remaining tortillas.

In a separate large skillet, pour enough vegetable oil to fill 2 inches full of oil. Heat oil over low heat. The oil needs to reach 375 degrees. Using tongs, lower one chimichanga at a time into the hot oil, seam side down. Fry until golden brown on both sides, 1-2 minutes on each side. Place cooked chimichangas on a paper towel lined place to absorb oil. Repeat with the rest of the chimichangas. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

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