Saturday, December 28, 2013

Eternal Excellency Is.60:15

God has taken that which is forsaken and hated and turned it into an Eternal Excellency. Isn’t that just like God, to take the things that revered and turn them into dust and ashes? And then to take the things that are lightly esteemed by men, or not esteemed, or even hated and despised, and turn them into Eternal Glory? Well, it is like God, even if you do not see it clearly. His ways really are not our ways. His thoughts really are not our thoughts. We get it so mixed up that we hardly know God’s approving smile from His disapproving frown.
Is it any wonder that just when you get ahead you feel best about yourself? When you get a promotion, when you have the extra cash, when you are honored in the square, that is when things are all right with you. But God takes the weak, the poor in spirit, the downtrodden and He bestows a blessing on them. Why can we not see it? So, if you are feeling smug in your own achievements, humble yourself to thanksgiving for those very achievements are from God, too. But if you are feeling forsaken and hated, alone, sad, desperate, foolish, sinful and hopeless, then hear the Word of the Lord. He has taken all that failure and turned into an Eternal Excellency for you. This is the joy of forgiven sin, a hope that, in Christ, truly does spring eternal.

God's Nationality

I just finished Gilead  by Marilynne Robinson. I enjoyed the book very much. I was amazed that she could write convincingly in the first person as an old preacher. I'm getting to be an old preacher myself so I can tell you that she pulled it off.

I was struck by something she said about the nationality of God. Her main character, the old preacher John Ames, was discussing one of his favorite authors, John Calvin. He said that Calvin, no doubt, thought of God as French. He, on the other hand, as a midwestern American, thought of God in that fashion.

I was shocked to find that he was exactly right. I have often preached that God has made us in His image and that we ought not to recreate Him in ours. In preaching this, I am affirming the absolute authority of Scripture and that we need to be constantly transformed by God's Spirit and Word into the image of God. I suppose I had never really thought of what God is like in His person as Father, until yesterday. Is that possible?

Of course, God is not a Frenchman, nor an American. We should rightly be appalled at such thoughts, especially the former. Smile. It would be helpful for us to see our bias so that we can step aside of it a bit. I am not sure we can step outside of it but if we know we are biased, then perhaps we can make an adequate adjustment?

Perhaps this is one reason why we are not allowed to make images of God? They would so radically reveal our bias that it would be established in stone. Hard to make our way aside then. The images of God in our head are hard enough to mold into the image of the One true God.

So, let us take God at His Word. Let His Spirit change our thinking of Him through our understanding of His Word and may He take that Word and transform our thoughts into His thoughts and our ways into His.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God With Us is God For Us

Jesus is not only with us as Emmanuel. Jesus is for us. He is our Savior, protector, guide, teacher, elder brother and God. He is fighting battles on our behalf. He prays to the Father for us. He has given us everything we need for life and health and peace. He is our champion, our David, who has killed death, defeating the devil and every lofty thought raised against Him. Jesus is the exalted King at the right hand of the Father, who is ruling over His Kingdom and advancing His will at just the right pace to fit His purposes.
         This Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor Prince of Peace is our amazing Savior, who deigns to reach down and bless each one of us just as He reached out and blessed the babes in arms that were carried to Him. How can we not be amazed at such amazing grace? If God is for us, who can be against us?
         Romans 8:3 In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Grace to Help

The Incarnation is an amazing event. The second person of the Trinity became man and was birthed of a woman, just like you and me. He grew up with parents who taught Him how to love God and love men. By the time He was twelve, He was teaching His mother and step-father how to love His Father in Heaven and how to rightly love men. He was tempted by sin but never fell to its allures. He understands the nature of the body, what it means to be tired and hungry, what it means to be angry and overcome with emotion.
         This is the Jesus who died to save us from our sins and from the constant struggle between doing that which is right and feeling the pull of our fallen bodies towards temptation and sin. Jesus understands this all and He is the One who is our ever present help in times of need. He is the One who says that we should come boldly into His presence, not because we are so good but because He is so good and His throne of grace is the place where we find His tender mercies.

Phil Roberston is Right

Phil Roberstson has been fired from A&E. I don't watch a lot of TV but when I do, I can't help but watching Duck Dynasty. It seems the Lord has finally promoted Phil to his big moment. The Robertsons have lived before us and have let A&E lampoon them to some degree. They don't seem to think too highly of themselves so they don't mind it when the elites try to make them a laughing stock. But now Phil's beliefs are in the mainstream. We, as Christians, often get elevated to the point where our convictions cost us. Phil is only saying what the Bible says. ALL Christians must believe the same things because they are fundamentally true. Marriage, and sex for that matter, is for a husband and a wife, a man and a woman. And Christians do not have to fear in saying what God says. The homosexuals are in sin and God judges such things.

There is now a support website on Facebook Page for Phil, Bring Back Phil.
I appreciate the sentiment of Bring Back Phil but it may be that the Lord elevated him to this spot for this exact reason. My hope is that Phil stands his ground and the rest of the family, too, for truth, for the Bible and for Jesus. He has nothing to apologize for and he should NOT apologize or back down. I hope Willie, Uncle Si, Jase, Jep and the boys chime in and also get fired. It would be good for all of them and for the conscience of America, if we still have one. The blessings of Jesus on Phil!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Our Father

The Communion meal tells us who our Father is. He is the Lord God Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth. He has adopted us, making us joint heirs with His own Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. Jesus is our elder brother but He is not hording the Father’s inheritance. All that belongs to Jesus belongs to us. He freely gives us all things. 

It is true that there are false sons within the pale of the Church but if we look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith; if we confess that we need a Savior and look to Jesus to save us from our sins; if we believe the Word of the Father that all that come to Him will find relief for their heavy load of sin; then we have no doubt who our Father is. We are His and He is ours. We are pleased to be at His table and He is pleased to serve us here.

O ye heights of heaven adore Him,
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions bow before Him,
And extol our God and King,
Let no tongue on Earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore. Amen.

A Father's Love

A father’s love is often scary. A good father is strong and his expectations seem difficult. A child may wonder if he is measuring up and if his father is pleased. This is natural and children need assurance of the father’s love. But a good father always provides the means of success to meet his expectations. He prepares the children to do that which he expects, feeding them, nurturing them, protecting them, and wherever they are incapable of doing that which he expects, he does so on their behalf. Thus, children of such a father find themselves continually in the place of special care and the father’s favor.
How much more so with our Father in Heaven who watches out for our very souls? He nurtures us along and leads us further into His ways little by little, enabling us by His Spirit, through Word and Sacrament, to do what He has called us to do. And when we are unable to fulfill His perfect will, for all fall short, He sent us His Son, born of a Virgin, to live and die, so that we might live and die and live in Him. He perfectly enables us even when we are incapable of enabling ourselves. And thus we are assured of the Father’s love. Glory to God in the highest!

Widow's Son

The widow of Zarephath was in the land of the Sidonians, a wicked people. She had no husband and there was a famine in the land because the rains from heaven had dried up. There was nothing left to her but to eat a few crumbs and perish. But the man of God, Elijah, showed up and asked for the last bit of her food. Only if she was willing to die in this way would he bring her back to life. In faith, she gave the prophet the last of her food, bringing him a little cake of sacrifice.

The woman is like Israel, forsaken in a barren land because she had been exiled. The bread from heaven, the Word of God, had ceased from the land, and the people were without hope and without God in the world. In such a situation, God did not immediately come to give her life. She must first die. But she had to die in faith believing that God would raise her from the dead, believing like Abraham and Isaac, the fathers of our faith. As a result, the Lord brought her food for life, life that overflowed, bread and oil, like rivers of living water that never cease.

Later, the woman's son was sick and died. He was the heir of promise and the one to carry on the family name. He was like an adopted son to Elijah, who was Godlike in his ministry to the woman and her son. But the son died and the woman was indignant that the man of God came to her and brought such a piercing blow to her heart. The prophet fell upon the boy three times until he was raised from the dead, the promised heir returning to fulfill the promise of the man of God to provide unending food for them now and in the now to follow, life everlasting.

Life Measured

1 Kings 15:5 says Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

This is a bit of an aside while talking about the line of kings downstream from David. The point in the aside is not to talk definitively about David but to make a comparison. But we should take this line as also inspired by the Holy Spirit. He says that David did not turn aside from the Lord.

Oh, except for the matter of Uriah.

What did that entail? Lustful, wondering eyes, adultery, disloyalty to a subordinate, the genesis of a conspiracy, implicating others in crime and finally, a king commanded murder. Just that.

What are we to make of this?

One, that the Bible is honest. It tells the entire story of David's life, including the preceding details, without pulling punches. The Bible is not excusing any of these heinous sins and there were both immediate and lasting consequences.

Two, that God is a God full of mercy and that one event, even a prolonged and deeply sinful event, does not define an entire life. David was a man after God's own heart and one that sinned in an egregious manner. The death penalty would have been appropriate for David and we do see something like the death and resurrection of David in the story of Absalom. David even went up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, (in the garden of Gethsemane?) as he is driven away from Jerusalem, dying? outside the city and then later returning as a new man. 

God is gracious and forgives sins.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

David and Goliath

Not sure what to do with the formatting. Sorry. I guess I am a blogdiot. I need help.

The Battle Belongs to Yahweh-David and Goliath
Virgil Hurt

With sling and stone and nerve of steel
With youth and faith and fighting weal
Advanced young David, Jesse’s son
The shepherd boy from Bethlehem.

Goliath roared his blasphemous threats
And cursed bold David by his gods
Am I dog? That thou comest to me with staves?
Come to me and thy flesh I’ll flay
To feed the fowls and beasts in the field.
But to these threats David would not yield.

David spoke defiance by the Living God.
Thou comest to me with sword and spear and shield
But the Name of Yahweh of hosts, I wield.
He is the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
This day will Yahweh deliver thee into mine hand; he cried.
I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee;
And I will give the Philistine carcasses of this host this day
To the wild beasts of the field and birds of prey
That all the earth may know
That there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly gathered here
Shall know that Yahweh saves not with sword and spear
But the battle belongs to Yahweh
And He will give you into our hands this day.

These words enraged the giant beast
And he arose to make of David a feast
David, himself, hastened forward to fight
Swirling his sling in furious flight.
His sling let loose a palm sized stone
And struck Goliath’s head, crushing bone.

He ran to the place were Goliath lay
To make sure he was down to stay.
And took his sword and smote off his head
So all Israel knew that Goliath was dead.
He raised the ghastly head to show
That Yahweh had brought the proud man low
And raised on high the humble man
And gave glorious victory to Israel’s band.

Idaho Elk Repost

I am reposting my Idaho Elk Adventure. I have made a few edits but I have a better reason.

In the original version, I insulted my brother with  a half truthed section and poor writing, too. I cannot do too much about the poor writing but I can fix an insult and disrespect. One ought not to write for laughs at the expense of those who ought to be honored. By the way, he never said anything about me insulting him. He did not express offense. But I realized I had done so and want to make it right.

I greatly respect my brother Gary. He is the reason I even hunt. He is the reason I was on this hunt and got this bull. He has always been a faithful and extremely generous brother, a father figure to me in many ways. My heartfelt apologies to him for my offense and a request for his, God's and my reader's forgiveness. May he and I have many more glorious adventures.

Idaho Elk Adventure
By Virgil Hurt

In the Spring of 2013, my brother Gary was working on me to visit Idaho in September for an Archery Elk hunt. I was interested but the time and expense were definite deterrents.  Then I watched a few elk hunting Youtube videos. Wow! It looked like high adventure and I began working hard to make time and scrape together funds.
Nine days of elk hunting in Idaho does not come together in a moment. We began our planning sometime in the early summer. I was traveling from Lynchburg, Virginia, so I had to purchase out of state licenses and tags. If you are considering making that trip, get ready for sticker shock. I had the advantage of not having to pay for a guide, housing or even much food. My brother and his hunting partners were providing the hunting knowledge and my brother’s wife, Becky, was coming along as our gourmet camp cook. We didn’t suffer in the eating department.
The place where we chose to hunt does not allow motorized vehicles. We would not be able to four-wheel drive or even bring in an ATV to pack out our meat. I grew up in Idaho and have killed a couple of large cow elk with my rifle.  I understand the daunting task of packing out an animal once you get him down. We would be calling for bulls and so I was a bit concerned about how far we would be from camp. As it turns out, the hike in was anywhere from two to seven miles. If you have ever packed out a full-grown bull elk hind quarter, you’ll understand how far seven miles is. And, if you are my age, forty-eight, or my brother’s age, fifty-six, then you’ll understand how much we did not want to pack out that bull.
“No problem,” my brother said, “I’ve got a buddy that has horses. Easy.” Nice.
In July, my brother and the horseman and his cowgirl went on a scouting trip. They wanted to be familiar with the area come September. I should have had some odd premonition when Gary gave me the report on the scouting trip. It seems the horseman was not very horsey although his girlfriend was the real deal. The wannabe cowboy got bucked off his mount, banged up his shoulder and then walked back to camp. The cowgirl mounted his rowdy horse and showed him who was boss. My brother rode her docile mare and the two of them did the scouting. Gary was excited about the elk country and was very much looking forward to returning in September with the horses for a week of great hunting and riding.
I probably didn’t need a new bow but shooting big game in wide-open country was a good excuse to upgrade. My old bow was pulling about fifty-eight pounds and the one I upgraded to pulls seventy. It took some training and a lot of practice to pull it smoothly but I got there. I spent a lot of time at short range, twenty and thirty yards and developed a great deal of confidence at that range, even comfortable, with fairly tight groups, out to forty. However, we would be hunting in sagebrush around Quaking Aspens and dark timber and I knew I might have the option for a longer shot of fifty to seventy yards. I didn’t think I would take a seventy yard shot but I did not want to pass on anything around fifty. So, the heftier bow would make for a speedy shot with some kill power once it got there.
I live in a densely populated neighborhood in Lynchburg, Virginia. I can practice up to forty-five yards but in order to do so, I have to shoot down the length of my yard between two houses, through the open gate, over the lawn in between the raised tomato beds and all the way to the back fence. I strung a red ribbon to keep anyone from walking in the shooting lane because I couldn’t see them from where I was shooting. I know. Stupid. But it was an elk hunt and I had to be ready! No one died so I guess it was okay.
September arrived and my anticipation was like a kid after Thanksgiving, waiting for Christmas. But there was a brief interlude of anxiety. The man we were counting on for our hunting expertise in the field had killed his bull on August 30th, opening weekend. Good for him but our hunt was not starting until September 14th. I wondered if his hunting was done for the year and we would be on our own? I say on our own because I was a true rookie to archery elk hunting and my brother is barely more than a novice. The man we were counting on is an expert and not knowing him, I figured we had lost him when he killed his bull.
But I was wrong. My brother told me Rick was ‘all in’ even though he would only be hunting with us, not shooting. He did have deer and bear tags, so that kept up some of his hunting interest. But he was still all in and he treated us wonderfully, making a full commitment to the week and actually being the one who was on us to be up early and hunt hard all day. If it was not for Rick’s know-how and can-do, we would not have had such an amazing adventure. Thanks Rick!
My flight out was without incident. I was a bit concerned about checking my bow but the NSA guy was fine with it, had a quick look and locked it up. I did learn to travel better with a bow. I was so anxious to get out there and hunt that I had my broadheads on my arrows and snapped into their spots in my case. By the time my bow arrived at the luggage pickup, the broadheaded arrows were all scattered in the case. I was fortunate to not have a broadhead cut a string or cable. I won’t be so stupid next time.
Once I arrived at my brother’s house, we had a huge packing day before we could head up to Elk Camp. My bother and his wife had done most of the enormous amount of planning and shopping for the week. Gary likes to do everything up big. No skimping. He had already hauled the camp trailer to base camp. We just had to load our piles of food, tents, sleeping bags, more food, coolers, beer, a bit more food, hunting gear, and the last of the food and we were ready to go. We ate and ate and ate but we did end up hiking sixty or seventy miles that week, so we needed the sustenance.
As we were getting ready to leave the house, I was wondering if the horse guys were traveling with us or if we were meeting them at camp. I hadn’t said anything to Gary, though, and he had yet to mention anything to me.
“Virgil, I’ve been meaning to tell you something. “
“What’s that?”
“No horses.”
“Huh? What? How come?”
“He bagged out. Didn’t want to go and neither did his girlfriend. No horses.”
I was seriously bummed but tried not to show it. My brother Gary is known for his hunting surprises, mostly in the field, if not outright hunting torture, so I was disappointed but not really that surprised. I began to wonder if had concocted the entire horse story just to get me to take him up on the strenuous hunt. Not sure but it worked and it worked out for me.
I texted my other brother, Larry, the one who has also been on the end of a few Gary hunting tortures. So much so that he has flatly refused to go hunting with Gary for the last thirty-five years.

My text: First Gary surprise. No horses.

Larry’s response: Right, You are the horse! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!

And as it turns out, he was more right than he knew. I was the horse!
We arrived at camp, unloaded the truck, set up our tents, canopy, bow target, made a firewood run, ate some deluxo food, prepped our gear for the morning hunt and hit the sack. Emotions were running high. Sleep was shallow. Gary and Becky were lounging in the camp trailer. I was in one tent and Gabe and Rick in another. I was a bit envious of the trailer but had a good bed on a frame with an inflatable mattress. Not bad. A week at cozy elk camp. Go to sleep now and enjoy elk dreams.
Awake at 4:30am, anxious. The other alarms are off at 5:00am and we are ready to rumble. Bacon frying and blueberry pancakes on the griddle. Life is hard at hunt camp. After a healthy feeding, four very eager hunters were ready for the big day.
Shortly after breakfast, Gary was anxiously searching the camp. He was making his way from spot to spot, flinging things aside, glancing at bags, opening car doors, shutting them more aggressively, his pace alternately quickening in anticipation and slowing in frustration. Something was clearly amiss.
“What’s up?”
“Can’t find my license or tag. Gabe’s either.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ve got it. You gave mine to me back home in the garage. Where’s your wallet?”
“I didn’t put it in my wallet.”
“Oh, where did you put it?”
“Don’t know.” (with a look that put me in my place for asking a stupid question) “Wouldn’t be looking if I did. I think I left it in my desk back home.”
“No,” I said. “You wouldn’t do that. Sit down and think about it for a minute.”
But he didn’t sit down. He usually doesn’t. He’s a mover. He opened things and tossed things and glanced in places from here to there but didn’t sit down and just think. After another circuit of lifting bags, checking the glove box and scratching the head, he had only one solution.
“We have to go back,” he said. “Must be in my desk.”
Just then, Gabe showed up. “Dad, you got my license?”
So, off they go, back down the hour long gravel road and the one hundred miles of highway, back to town to look in a drawer.
Lucky me! The day was planned for Gabe and Rick to hunt together. Gary and I would be the other team. Depending on the success of the two groups, we would take our turns with Rick, who is an expert caller and knows this area better than the rest of us. But day one, Virgil went with Rick because Gary blanked on the licenses. I would be sorry for his lapse but it turned out to my benefit. Truth be told, Gary was glad for me, too.
Rick and I made our way to the foot of our canyon and parked the truck. It was the beginning of a long and glorious day. We started walking just about first light around 7am. The day was beautiful, no wind, clear skies, about fifty degrees. The first couple of miles of this canyon are a gentle incline with a few likely spots along the way to stop and cow call. About an hour in, at the third or fourth canyon, Rick’s call got an immediate bugle. The bull was probably a half-mile off but he was talking. The next bugle was noticeably closer and Rick was excited.
“Get set up. Get set up!”
“Get set up!”
You have to understand this is my first day of archery hunting for elk. I have no idea what “Get set up!” means. My version of getting set up in Virginia was climbing into a tree stand and sitting there for three hours.
“Go over there!” said in a hushed whisper with a hasty point in a general direction.
Meanwhile, Rick disappeared in the sagebrush and commenced a flurry of cow calls meant to lure in the excited bull. He was definitely coming and I was trying to figure out what, where and how to fulfill the command to “Get set up!”
I made a sprint across a little wash and got set up behind a large willow bush. It was a mistake and I learned. My heart was pounding. NO, really pounding! I always get excited when I hunt, even when the appearing guest is a little whitetail doe. The familiar shot of adrenaline makes the heart pound and this is why we hunt. But this was different. Way different. A bull elk was coming fast and my body was in full revolt.
“Help me Jesus. Be calm. Breathe.”
These were both my thoughts and the words uttered under my shallow, quick breaths. And then, there he was, one hundred fifty yards away, a five by five bull coming fast over the edge of the hill, breathing hard and bugling loud, his belly pulsating with his own excitement and effort. My heart, my hands, my breath!
“Please Jesus, help me to be calm!”
This nice satellite bull was ready for some loving, looking for that stray cow away from the main herd. He moved towards us fast and steady to about fifty yards and abruptly stopped. My mistake looms. I now realize that “Get set up” means set up in front of the bush. I was behind and had to move to get a shot and he was close, broadside, with no cover between him and me. I ranged him with shaky hands, fifty yards, and he saw the slight movement and quartered away a stride or two. He was at fifty-five yards and still.
My bow is up and I am at full draw. Oh no! My pins are bouncing at about thirty quivers a second. How am I going to hit this bull? I pick my second to last pin and let fly. Miss. Clean over his back. Dang! And I am surprised that I can still breathe.
He did not sprint but ambled away to about seventy-five yards but that was way out of my range. He took his time moving over the hill while Rick kept up the cow calls. The bull was thinking hard about coming back even though I had been busted and the cow he was looking for was nowhere to be seen. He bugled at us ten or twelve times but would not come closer than ninety yards. After about ten minutes, he wandered off.
It was an exciting fifteen minutes, one hour into my first archery elk adventure. I nearly had a heart attack but the old pump is still beating.
“Did you see me shoot?”
“No. I was lying in the sagebrush. How far?”
“About fifty-five. Right over his back. Man, I blew it! Stupid!”
“Don’t worry about it. You’ll get another shot. You are going to kill a bull today.”
Those were the right words. I needed that encouragement. I hoped that miss would not come back to haunt me this week. We looked for the arrow for a while but couldn’t locate it and headed up to the high country.
Just around the corner, we ran into a couple of mule deer does that we saw each subsequent day as we hiked in. But we were looking for much bigger game.
We hiked to the top of the canyon, siting one rag horn bull at a great distance. We called to him but he either did not hear us or was simply not responsive. The hike to the top was vigorous and when we hit the top of the ridge, we needed to rest and do some glassing. Suddenly, several cows bolted over the top of the ridge opposite us. They were followed by an enormous bull and they all ran across the open country into a large stand of Aspens. It would have been about a two-mile hike to get there from where we were glassing and the elk seemed hard pushed already. As this was the first day of a week long hunt, we chose to not go after them and run the chance of pushing them completely out of our area.
Having rested awhile, we continued along the ridgeline to our right for a looking back up the southward facing canyon. It had been a lovely morning but dark clouds were forming and we could see a storm brewing in from the north. In fact, it was coming fast and we had little time to seek cover. It was September and not yet cold, a warmish day by afternoon. We were not really worried for our safety but we were not interested in getting soaked, knowing the storm would drop the temperatures considerably. We sought shelter but were on the side of a mountain of sagebrush. The trees were few.
The rain started spitting in our faces and our only bit of shelter was a lone small pine tree about fifty yards below the ridge. Six foot five, two hundred fifty pound Rick and I huddled below the nine-foot tall tree, barely a Christmas tree and scant cover on an open mountain. The rain was beginning to be more earnest. I threw on my rain jacket and Rick was fumbling with an emergency blanket as his only waterproof gear, as the forecast had not called for rain that day. The tiny bit of aluminum foil was resisting in the wind like a silver snake and we were laughing at him fumbling with the blanket as well as our predicament of getting stuck in the storm. Surprisingly, the little tree did us well. The wind was blowing at just the right speed and angle that the little tree created a small rain shadow and we stayed mostly dry. After about forty minutes, the sun returned, in patches, and we side hilled further up the canyon, staying high and calling down into canyons below us. We heard no responses for several hours as we put in a good, long slog.
The day was turning to afternoon and we were beginning to think about the hike out, about five miles, so we started making our way down the canyon. Mid-way to the bottom of our first descent, we got a bugle. He sounded close and was coming our way.
“Get set up!”
Now I knew what he meant and snapped into action. We had a Go-Pro camera and in an effort to calm my nerves, took a minute to get the camera out, turned on and strapped to my head. And this time I set up in front of a large pine with its bows hanging low to the ground to break up my outline. I was ready!
Rick’s cow call. A bugle.
“He’s coming!”
I was calm this time, excited but not so shaky. I was feeling confident enough to stick a bull and would be pleased to get a video as well.
A bugle. More cow calls and active bugles. Sounded like he was seventy-five yards below us on the other side of some thick pines.
Rick whisper-called out to me.
“Move. Move.”
He pointed but he was all in camouflage with a camo net on his face and in a tree shadow and I had a hard time seeing him, even in broad daylight just forty yards away. He took off a glove and I could see where he was pointing.  I moved.
We were working out our signals on the fly and learning to communicate through hand motions as we set up for the bull.
He bugled. Rick called. But he was hung up and not getting any closer. Rick was pointing and I saw the cow step out and a big bull behind her, pushing her up the steep canyon slope directly across from us. The slope was very verticle from our side going down and sheer shale on their side going up but they navigated the hill easily. He was still bugling every time we called but he had the cow in front of him pushing her up the slope. He was not coming. He was going.
We stayed in some cover and called and he was very responsive but was still going. At the top of the steep slope was a nice saddle, like the gentle curve on a horse’s back. He pushed the cow over the top but paused, broadside, sky lighted against the blue sky. Although it sounds like the made up part of a hunting magazine story, he lingered there, tauntingly, and gave one last, long bugle before disappearing over the ridge.
The Go-pro was dead anyway. So, we did not lose the banner video moment.
Rick has hunted these canyons many times and has seen many big bulls and he was excited about this one. I was thinking that it is was probably time to start heading back to the truck, since we had a two to three hour hike out. Rick was thinking differently.
“I think we should go after him. At least take a look.”
“I’m not sure we can climb over that shale.”
“Agreed,” Rick said, “I won’t climb in shale. We need to follow this canyon out to the bottom and then hike up the main canyon to where he went over. Once we get to the bottom, I am guessing, it will be the second or third canyon up from the creek bed.”
“You think we can find him?”
“Probably not, but that’s a good bull. We need to give it a shot.”
“Okay, I’m in. Let’s do it.”
We descended the canyon on the opposite side of where the bull and cow went over. These are big mountains and when you come down off a big hill, the canyons split off in multiple directions. We were hiking down one main canyon but the bull went over about half way down. We had to hike down about a mile and then back up the main canyon, trying to figure out which one he might be in. It was a game of chance and we did not have the odds, or the legs, in our favor.
Furthermore, the afternoon was hastening on and evening was fast approaching. On our way down, we spied a rag horn bull on the opposite canyon, more than a half-mile away. He darted straight down a hundred yard shale slide without so much as a single slip. These formerly plains creatures have acclimated well to these rugged mountains.
We made it to the bottom in about an hour or so and then started up the main canyon, following the creek bottom, our bull’s canyon to our left and the shale slide bull’s’canyon to our right. From the bottom, it was hard to tell exactly where we had come down and where our bull had gone over the saddle, but there were a few larger landmarks near the top to help us make a somewhat educated guess as to where we were. We hiked back up the main canyon about a mile before making any cow calls. It was our desire to get as close to this bull as we could before trying to make contact. We got up into some timber that stretched all the way down to the creek, a great midday elky looking spot. Rick stopped.
“I think this is it,”
He cow called. A bull immediately bugled. Close.
“Set up.”
I quickly got set up inside a small stand of pines with Rick about forty yards behind me in some willows. If the bull was coming, he would have to walk right past my location. I was ready. Calm. Confident.
Cow call. Bugle response. Again close but sounding like he was going away.
Rick pointed up. I got his point and started following the bull. Rick had said that he doesn’t chase bulls in the timber but I guess this was different? This bull was interested. Talking. A lot.  But he had that one cow and he kept pushing her away. She must have been quite a catch.
I made my way up, side hilling but always up, up, finding good elk trails as we went. Every forty or fifty yards, we stopped and Rick called and the bull bugled. We heard him, close. Sounded like he was right on us but we couldn’t see him.
Set up, then hesitate, then start up again. Up. Call. Bugle. Follow.
Rick was trailing behind me about forty yards and I had my bow ready, at times nocking a string when the bull sounded like he was on top of us and then un-nocking, arrow in one hand, bow in the other, side hilling up, Rick following, cow calling. The bull pushing his cow but slowly, keeping in touch with us, regularly.
The canyon is long and steep on this side and we were in pursuit, excited, out of breath, climbing, hoping. We paused on the top of a rock ledge looking down at a green patch below us, a tiny trickle of water running between the slopes, in these rain-thirsty hills. A large black bear looked up at us from two hundred yards away. Black bears come in many colors but this one was big and jet black all over. His head seemed as big around as my circled arms. “Maybe we will see him again?” I thought.
The bull bugled over and over, just ahead of us, just out of sight. We turned uphill and followed. We were now near the saddle where we had first seen the bull about three hours prior. He had come over and to the bottom. We had now chased him back up to the top but he was playing with us, wondering if he could keep his current cow and maybe add another.
Near the top in a small stand of pines, I heard him raking the trees. This was my chance. I was exhausted from the chase, sweaty, legs burning. I stopped for thirty seconds to catch my breath, hoping to shoot straight.
If he was busy and noisy in the trees, I could sneak above him and get a close shot. I took one more step to make my way around and the cow suddenly appeared like a large ghost in the tree shadows, looking straight at me at seventy-five yards.
Busted, I froze. She did not bolt but sauntered away, across an open sagebrush side hill and over the ridge. The bull was still raking in the pines. I still had a chance to sneak up on him.
I made my way around, hiding behind some brush, and headed up a few steps. The raking stopped and he stepped out of the pines at seventy-five yards and bugled. He was big, the same bull we had seen saw but he was still pushing the cow. He was going. Always going.
Too far. Trees in the way. No shot. And then he, too, ambled over the ridge and into a deep canyon, a ridge too far, a canyon too deep, and it was over.
Exhausted, disappointed, and thirsty, with no thought of chasing him further and night coming soon, I sat down in the open, on the elk plowed trail and hauled off my pack to slug down the last of this day’s six water bottles.
Rick followed up.
I asked him, “Did you see that?”
“No, I was back in the brush. How far away was he?”
“About seventy-five yards, broadside. I was stuck behind that stand of trees over there and no shot. He was too far anyway, at least for me. It was exciting, though. We got close. Good job calling.”
“Ya, he was talkative. I thought he was going to do it. I’m glad we gave it a shot. Close.”
“Me, too. I think our best bet down is to go across there, below where he went over, and then head down to the right. It’s getting late. Let’s go.”
We were seriously bummed but it was a very exciting day and I, at least, had gained a wealth of experience, and some very sore feet and legs. We had probably already put in about seven or eight miles on the day and had another five and a half to get back to the truck.
We got our packs put back together, strapped on and headed down. We had taken about ten steps when we heard a bugle, behind us, below, somewhere near where we had just come up the canyon. A different bull.
Our bull bugled back from somewhere over the ridge where he had just disappeared. He sounded distant and the new bull bugled again. Our bull bugled back but this time closer, an excited call. We heard a cow call that sounded like she was in between the two of them. Perfect!
We now had two bulls talking to each other with a cow in between them and they were both coming! Perfect!
Rick was very excited. “Set up! Set up!”
“Where? Which one?”
Rick, with all six foot five inches of him, threw his arms out wide, “I don’t know. Pick! Hurry!”
With no seconds to spare, I ran across the open field where our bull had crossed and disappeared. He bugled. I fumbled an arrow out of my quiver and got it nocked. He was coming, fast, bugling, clicking, angry.
Suddenly, thirty seconds later, he was there, bearing down on Rick who was stationed in the middle of a small pine. Rick was thinking, “He is going to come and rake this tree and kill me!” But Rick kept calling and the bull was almost on us.
I could see him, head down, antlers tilted back, bugling, clicking, coming. I was on one side of a large pine and he was on the other, driving nearly straight at me. As he passed on the opposite side of the pine, I drew and held on this side of the pine, waiting for him to come clear. I was excited. This was it but I was calm. I could see my pins, not jumping, steady.
He emerged on this side of the pine. When he saw me he stopped, abruptly, broadside, ten yards. Now! I pulled my release and he simultaneously lept forward.
“Whack!” And pass through.
“You got him! We did it!”
“You got him!”
The bull made an eighty yard mad dash straight down a very steep, rocky hillside and then side-hilled for a few furious strides. Amazing ability to maintain their footing, even when fatally shot. We could hear his heavy and raspy breathing. Sounded like a good lung shot and in a minute or two it seemed like he was down somewhere near.
Rick gave me a mighty fist pump. We were both amazed and elated at the sudden turn of events.
My excitement was slightly tempered. “He leapt forward right as I released. I am afraid I got him too far back.”
“Sounded like a good hit to me and he was breathing hard, raspy, lung-hit. I think you’re good.”
We waited a few more minutes and then spent a little time looking for the arrow. When I found it, it was blood from broadhead to nock. No smell. No guts. A kill shot. Big bull down. All smiles now.
While we waited, we heard a turkey.
Rick said, “That’s strange, I’ve never seen a turkey up here.”
More turkey calls and a cow call or two as well.
“I think you’re right.” I said, “I’m going to ask them to hold off on heading down the trail until we wait another fifteen minutes or so. Don’t want to jump the bull and have him run on us.”
We headed down the eighty yard slope.
“Hey guys, how’s it going? Can you hold off going down for a few minutes? We’ve got a bull down and want to give him some more time before we track.”
He responded, eyes blazing with envy, “You killed him?! The big bull?!”
“Yep, just now, not ten minutes ago.”
“Oh, man, I can’t believe you got him!” But it was not said in excitement for me. It was the bitterest compliment I’ve ever heard. They had seen the bull when he passed from that final ridge, when we had given up on him.  Maybe their pressure, along with the new bull’s call, had convinced our bull to return? They were not happy for us.
After a few minutes of chit chat, I hit the trail. There was a little blood, not much, though, and I was a bit worried, but the ground was soft there where a small bog had formed from a spring. I wanted a bit more blood but could follow his tracks. It didn’t take long. About sixty yards away, he was down and dead. A trophy on my first day of Archery Elk Hunting in Idaho. A good day. A banner day. As far as my hunting career goes, the best day.
We got a few pictures and then started the other part of hunting, the work. I had a decision to make.
“You want to cape him? Once in a lifetime deal.”
I had not really planned on the extra expense of getting a bull mounted and sent back to Virginia. I was doing this trip on a budget. Of course, I had figured that if I really killed a trophy, I would get him mounted but had not expected to actually get a trophy. But there he was.
“Yes. Need to cape him. Not sure I’ll ever get this chance again.”
Darkness came on quickly. The night was clear. A night-time mountain sky, fifty miles from the nearest town, reveals the glory of God’s creation. We expressed our awe and got back to work. We removed one front quarter and started on the backstraps when we saw two lights, headlamps, bobbing down the canyon above us.
“Interesting. Don’t see anybody all day and run into five hunters after you kill the big bull.”
“Guess that gives me a chance to brag a bit.”
You can see a light a long way off in that kind of darkness and it took them several minutes to make their way to us. They had also seen our lights and figured we must have had something down to be up there and not moving away at that time of night.
“How’s it going.”
“Good. You? Got one down?”
“Ya, big bull. Take a look.”
“Wow. Right. That is a very nice bull. One of the bigger ones I’ve seen come out of here. Congratulations!” And their compliments were the real thing.
We visited for a minute or two and Rick and the newcomers, a man and a woman, were pleased to find that they had mutual acquaintances, folks who hunt these canyons. I didn’t know the acquaintances they were discussing but the woman was beginning to look familiar to me. I adjusted my headlamp so she could see me better and the other three did the same. My mind traveled back over 25 years to old high school and college age friends. I was not listening to the conversation but was thinking, “She looks like Kally Schiffler.”
I interrupted, “What is your name?”
“Kally! It’s Virgil!”
“What? Hey! I can’t believe it! Virgil!”
Hugs all round. The young man was not her husband as I assumed. It was her son, Zach, a small but stout mountainish sort of man, just like I remember his father, Kelly, a man that I have known since I was a boy. I had not seen Zach since he was about five years old but I ran into he and his mother on the side of a mountain about fifty miles from nowhere.
This was certainly a God-thing, the One who controls the universe and those billion shining stars and who can make this vast world small whenever He chooses.
I was doubly happy. I said, “It’s so good to see you guys. I can’t believe we are having a reunion, here on this mountain. God is good.”
“When did you get the bull?”
“Right before sundown, couple hours ago. You guys don’t have a gun do you? We saw a huge bear a couple hundred yards below the kill here and are a bit concerned about him getting aggressive.”
Kally said, “Yes, we both do. How about we leave one and you guys can drop it by camp on your way out?”
“Great.” I said, “That will give us a bit more confidence going out in the dark.”
“Mom, how about we stay and help them pack out? You up for that?”
“Yes, definitely, I was hoping you’d say that, Zach, but I didn’t want to commit for you.”
We were glad to get such eager companions for the pack out.
Kally and Zach both launched into the skinning and quartering. Kally is a regular mountain woman, an avid archery hunter, and had no problem jumping right into the bloody work.
We got the bull caped and quartered. Zach quickly climbed up a tree like an agile elf, and we hung one front and one hind quarter to retrieve on the next day’s pack in. Rick carried the backstraps and a front quarter. They were big but so is he. Zach took a hind quarter on the bone, also a hefty load. Kally carried her pack and mine. I got the head and antlers with the cape.
It was late and we were already tired. It had been a long day of hunting for everyone and we still had about 5 ½ miles to go and now we had a load. Rick is a mountain of a man, his large load seemingly small on that back, and Zach stoutly shouldered the hind quarter. Kally made her way with her heavy load without a peep of complaint. A stalwart trio.
The fourth member of this crew, me, was a bit overwhelmed with the task.  My load was as awkard. I carried the head draped over my shoulders, with the nose stuck straight up behind my head, grasping the antlers about mid-way up the beam out in front of me. I tried to roll up the connected cape as a shoulder pad but it kept unrolling and flapping down over my backside. The antlers rubbed relentlessly on my shoulders, creating a baseball slide raspberry in a not so baseball location.
In Virginia, if I had killed a September whitetail buck and carried the cape draped over my shoulders for five miles, I would certainly have been covered with ticks. As it turns out, I got no ticks from this Idaho Elk but didn’t know that until the next day when I was back at the trailer and checked myself out. But as I hiked out that night, with the head and cape across my neck, I figured that I would be crawling with ticks. I also figured that it would be worth it.
The elk head was heavy and awkward. With a pack, you can situate the weight of the meat on your shoulders and hips. It is still heavy but evenly distributed. Packing this way, I could not stand straight up and my head and neck were pushed forward.  I could only make short jaunts and had to stop and rest fairly often. I had no way to put the head down easily so I would look for a spot on the trail where there was a high side so I could simply sit down and have the head above me on the hill with most of the weight off my back. Sometimes I found such a place. Several times I simply dropped down on the ground and nearly gored myself. I had just heard about a guy who had killed himself packing out an elk head. I thought he must have been an idiot. Had to be a freak accident. I did not want to be that guy but as we made our way, I got so tired and careless that I understood how it happened. I had become that idiot.
After several stops, I remembered that I had a 5-hour energy drink in my pack. My energy was now running in spurts of about two to five minutes, so five hours sounded pretty good. I had never drunk one of these before and had no idea what the effect would be. Gulp. Here goes.
I shouldered up the head and was off. I was not sure if it was psychosomatic or real energy but I was going now. We were about half way out and I was making longer trips in between rests, not shorter.
“Five hundred!” I called.
“Five hundred what?”
“Five hundred steps since we last rested. I am going for one thousand!”
At about eight hundred, I was hurting but I had set the goal and kept putting one foot in front of the other. I have run a few marathons and the mental aspect of having done so was helping me. I did not want to keep packing out. I really wanted to stop. I wanted to just stop, sit down and go to sleep and do the rest in the morning but that was not a real option. The only option was to finish, to get this head packed out, to keep going.
5-hour energy works! They had all been waiting on me for the last few hours. I could only go so far. I needed rest. But now I was pushing them. They were glad when I had to stop.
“Nine hundred ninety-seven, nine hundred ninety-eight, nine hundred ninety-nine, one thousand,!” Drop the head. Breathe. Rest the burning legs, crumpled back and aching neck. Rub the rawing shoulders.
“That 5-hour energy must work. You’re on a mission.”
“Right. I’m nearly done for. Let’s see if we can do this in one more push.”
Three minute rest and up and go. I was actually the first one back to the truck. I was in a hurry to get back. To stop. To rest.
I offered a front quarter to my faithful friends for their kindness to us. They still had elk meat in the freezer from last year’s kill and were hoping to get another two or three in the family this year. They declined the offer. Zach did get his elk a few days later and his dad came up with the horses to pack it out.
Remember, I am the horse!
We had started our day around 4:30am. When got into the truck it was 1:39am. A long day.
Arriving at camp at 2:00am, Rick headed straight to bed.
The folks at camp figured we had got something when we did not arrive back shortly after nightfall. Gabe had waited up by the fire until about 1:00am and had fallen asleep. The fire died down and he woke up cold and went to bed.
I was alone but I was feeling good and not ready to sleep. I cracked open a Nut Brown Ale and stoked up the fire. Another brew later, I heard my brother stirring in the trailer. It was 3:00am. I called through the door and he poked out his head. He joined me at the pickup to view the bull and I gave him the short version of the day’s hunt.
“Great job,” he said. “I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks. Thanks for bringing me and for everything. By the way, where was your license?”
“It was here the whole time. In my brown gear bag, in the side zipped pocket. I remembered when we got back to Twin Falls and looked in the drawer. But I’m glad you got to go with Rick. God works these things out, you know. It was your day.”
“Yes, I do and yes it was.”
Gary went back to bed and left me alone again by the fire with the starry sky. I jotted down some notes over a third brew, relishing in the successful hunt and then headed off to happy dreams around 4:00am, the end of a good day.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Simple David and Sore Afraid Saul

1 Samuel 17:55 And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth?
Saul knew whose son David was but he was now wondering if David was a threat to him. David was in fact the great-grandson of Ruth, the Moabitess who was married to Boaz. We are not exactly sure when the book of Ruth was penned. The final chapter gives the lineage of Boaz from as far back as Pharez all the way up to David. That is significant to Saul's fears. It is not known how famous the story of Ruth was at the time of Saul and David. The author of Ruth is unknown but is historically ascribed to Samuel the prophet. If so, we can assume that the story was very popular in Israel at the time of David and the fact that David had descended from Ruth and Boaz made him somebody. Especially somebody enough to give Saul the fantods.

And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. 
Abner knows who David is as do all of Saul’s servants. But Abner is being a careful counselor. He does not want to end up on the bad side of Saul. Saul may be thinking that David is a threat. Abner does not want to commit either way saying that David is indeed a threat, or an equal mistake, that he is no threat when he really is a great threat.

56 And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is. 

57 And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.  58 And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.
David makes no claims even though he may have had one. He was not simply David, son of Jesse. He was David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, husband to Ruth, the one whose was faithful to Israel, sticking closer than a brother. He was David, anointed by the prophet Samuel, the one whose words never fall to the ground. He was David, who killed a bear and a lion with his sling and staff. He was David, the giant killer, the bravest man in all of Israel, the one who saved Israel from their sins. David was Moses, and Joshua, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel all rolled into one. And David was all that Saul never could be. This David says simply, I am David, son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite.

The Battle Belongs to Yahweh

1 Sam. 17: 45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.  46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands.
David returns the formal boast. He boasts of killing Goliath but not in his own name. He will kill Goliath in the name of the Lord of hosts. David understands that God fights for him and that is why he can defeat Goliath.
We should note the contrast between David and Saul. Saul always makes the mistake of taking God’s glory for himself. David, who is a brave and capable youth, does not steal the glory that belongs to God. He understands that his bravery and capability comes directly from the hand of God.
Israel is trusting too much in sword, spear and Saul. David reminds them that God needs none of these weapons of war to defeat His enemies. He is the all powerful One and the battle is His.

48   And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.  49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.  50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.  51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith.
Goliath falls on his face before David and Yahweh. This is the position of prostration, extreme humility, a position of prayer. Goliath is humbled before the living God.