Peace

Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

So as most of you reading this have read my other posts and you well know, most of the time when I post these I have a pretty direct topic and a plan of what I’m going to write about. This time isn’t exactly like that. As opposed to describing a situation or recount a story per se, this post is to make you think and maybe even feel a little something.

Although I can’t see you while you read this so we’re going to have to go off the honor system here, take 20 seconds to close your eyes and imagine the single place in the world where you have felt the strongest sense of peace. Remember the sounds, the smells, what you could feel with your hands, the temperature of the place, try to place yourself back in that one moment.

Maybe this little exercise took you to the beach while you watched dolphins emerge from the water and playfully jump around just offshore. Maybe it took you to the mountains where you sat on a wooden deck and listened to the birds wake up with the sun to start their day. Maybe it even took you to the side of a hospital bed where you’ve been praying even after you ran out of words but the Father took your hands in His and overwhelmed you with his peace and love.

There is no right or wrong answer to where you find peace, but for me it’s different than most people. Over the course of my 20 years on this Earth, there have been two places where I feel a true sense of peace, and if you know me at all you probably know where they are.

The first place is 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate, 10 inches off the ground, next to a two foot long strip of rubber. When I was on the pitcher’s mound, regardless of how stressful the situation, I was in control. Now of course I’m human and I feel pressure and stress just like anyone else, especially trying to get the last three outs in a state championship game. However, when on the mound, I always found and extraordinary sense of peace. I loved the fact that what I did on the mound every pitch dictated the rest of the game.

The next place, as I’ve written about many times already, is in the woods. My favorite place on the planet is a shooting house in the middle of my family’s farm. The large wooden shooting house splits the middle of two food plots with a foothill of the Appalachian mountains behind me, and a deep river bottom cut by the Paint Rock River in front of me, surrounded by fields of native grasses as far as the eye can see. The mountain and river bottom are covered in thick hardwoods and a small cut corn field sits to the far left corner of the food plot. Watching deer frolic and roam the field and woods and seeing the sun rise over the trees or set behind the mountain and paint the sky with every color on an artist’s pallet will never get old to me. This is where I find peace because I know the artist. This is where I find peace because I know that the artist loves and cares for me. And He cares for you as well.

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Fruits of the Spirit or Fruits of the Harvest?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22)

If you were raised in a Christian home like me, you’ve probably heard of the fruits of the Spirit. These are qualities and characteristics that should be displayed by those of us who call ourselves Christians. All of these we should exhibit because the Father first exhibits them toward us. When we mess up, He is patient. In times of hardship, He gives us peace. In everything, He is gentle and loving. If we are to be more like Christ, then we should show these characteristics to others.

Often times, these fruits of the Spirit are seen in the woods as well. Although deer and duck hunters were not the direct target of Paul’s letter to the church in Galilee, these words are just as important and applicable now as they have ever been before. Here is the way I notice the fruits of the Spirit in the woods, and maybe after reading this, you’ll begin to see them too.

Love: Although it may not seem like it, true outdoorsmen love the animals we hunt. Yes, our goal is in fact to kill them, but that is far from the most important thing. We hunt for food, population control, ethical wildlife management, and to commune with our Creator in a way that He designed.

Joy: One of the top 3 happiest moments of my life was taking my largest buck with my grandfather. Not only were we joyful over the kill, but also the time we got to spend together and all the hard work finally paying off to reach this milestone.

Peace: As I’ve written about before, nothing in the world is more peaceful than watching the sun rise over the water or through the trees on a cold clear morning. These times are when I feel closest to the Father because I am experiencing his untouched Creation exactly how He intended for me to.

Patience: You will never be a successful hunter if you are not patient, bottom line, period, end of story. Although it’s hard to sit through wind, snow, sleet, rain, freezing temperatures, and everything else we deal with, especially without seeing anything, the times that we are successful make everything worth it.

Gentleness: Although we shoot animals, we should be trying to do it in the most ethical way possible. We never want animals to suffer and should be doing the best we can to make clean shots.

Goodness: Genesis tells us that after everything was finished, our Creator looked down and saw that “it was good.” Fun fact, it’s still good today too. Creation has taught me more about how big our God really is than any Bible Study ever did. Now, don’t get me wrong, Bible Studies are fantastic ways to pursue Jesus and incur spiritual growth and you absolutely should be a part of one. However, I’m a very visual and experience based learner and when I’m in the woods is when I feel closest to the Father.

Self-control: In order to build up healthy deer populations, we have to let border line shooter bucks walk all too often for my patience level. Deer that are 3.5 years old but look like wall hangers are incredibly hard to say no too. However, for the future of your land and deer population, it sometimes has to be done.

The Fruits of the Spirit that Paul writes about in Galatians are applicable in all areas of life. Whether it be in the classroom, at work, or in the woods, these values and characteristics of how we should be hold true. Regardless of where you are or the situation, practice these and show someone else the love of Christ today.

Decisions, decisions…

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Decisions, both big and small, are simply a fact of life. Not all decisions are life altering or “make or break” decisions, however the decisions you make directly affect your next step in any given situation. My dad always says, “Your decisions don’t just affect you, but they affect everyone around you,” and more often than not, that is exactly the case. Granted, whether you eat a salad or a burger for lunch doesn’t exactly affect your family or friends, but it’s a good principle to live by. For example, choosing to sleep in instead of going to class can impact not only your immediate grade, but also your grade on the next quiz or test because you could miss something important.

Hunting is full of decision making. Where you want to hang your stands, what crops you want to plant fields with, where you should place your duck blind, where you should set your decoys, which calls to use, which camouflage pattern to buy, and many many more variables that you have to choose from when you get in the woods or on the water.  You have to decide when to call ducks, when to shut up and let them work, when to shoot, when to wait for them to get closer, and on and on and on. More often than not, because we are human and impatient, we jump the proverbial gun and make the wrong choice. I know for me personally, and my hunting buddies will agree, I’m the king of shooting too early. I see that flash of green on the head of a mallard and before I realize it, I’ve wasted all three shots at a duck 50 yards away and he flies away without a scratch and definitely without any interest in being within 5 miles of my duck blind.

Fortunately, none of these decisions are going to alter our lives in any major way. However, decisions both in the woods and in our daily lives can quickly take a drastic turn for the worst if we aren’t careful and seek wise counsel before making them. Someone very close to me was hanging a stand one day just like he had done hundreds of times before, chose not to put on his harness, and ended up falling nearly twenty feet and breaking his back because the bottom part of the stand broke on his way up. Thankfully, the Lord had bigger plans and now he is back to normal and still loves deer hunting, but it was a long road to get back to this point.

Situations can be seen like this in our daily lives as well. As a college student myself, unfortunately I witness the repercussions of bad decisions far too often. Sure college is a time to have fun and be social and I love both of those things as much as anyone; however, especially in today’s world, you have to be careful. It’s a scary world we live in and a split second can change your life forever.

If you’re struggling with making a big decision, such as life after school, whether to take this job, or just about what to do next, consult the ultimate instruction manual that God gives to us. Proverbs specifically is a fantastic place to start. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” King Solomon was given an opportunity to receive anything he could ask for from the Lord in 1 Kings Chapter 3 and instead of gold, wives, land, cattle, power, or anything imaginable, he chose wisdom. Solomon knew that the greatest gift he could receive and then in turn give to his people was the wisdom of the Father. The beautiful thing about all this? We have the opportunity to have the same wisdom that Solomon received from God too. All we have to do is ask.

Life Happens

“Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Philipians 3:13-14)

As I’ve said before, and as you well know if we have ever talked for any span of time, I relate nearly everything to baseball. That is largely because the sport of baseball is one of the few things that has made an even larger impact on my life than the outdoors. After over 14 years, countless travel tournaments, playing for the better part of eight months out of some years, and two state championships, I’ve pretty much seen it all. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, along with every emotion in between, are nothing new to me when it comes to baseball.

My dad always said that football is the ultimate team game but baseball shows you more about an individual than any other sport. The main reason behind this? Baseball is a lot like life (which of course in my mind translates closely to “baseball is a lot like hunting”). Although the two have very little in common other than being outdoors and often very frustrating, both of these teach you how to respond to adversity more than any other potential lesson. Adversity is defined as “difficulties or misfortune,” however, in the words of Jason Anderson, “sometimes life punches you in the mouth, the true test of who you are is what you do to respond to it.” Like I said, baseball is a lot like life, sometimes it punches you in the face and this is exactly what happened to us one early April afternoon in my senior year of baseball.

Second Round of the State Playoffs, Game 3, winner moves on, loser goes home, and down 9-1 in the 5th inning. That was the scene at Shoals Christian on April 27, 2015. It felt like one of those freeze frame moments in a movie with me narrating: “Yep, that’s me. I bet you’re wondering how we ended up in this situation.” and truthfully so was I. After we finally put a few runs together that inning, Athens Bible changed pitchers and coach challenged us, asking us in a way only Coach Anderson can, if this is how we wanted to be remembered. We proceeded to rattle off 21 runs in the next 3 innings. Adversity hit us in the face and we responded.

Often times this seems to happen in the woods. There’s a giant buck coming through the woods, but he turns just short of your shooting lane and doesn’t give you a shot. Sometimes the ducks will circle but not commit into decoys. Turkeys will shut up while coming right at you while still just out of sight for seemingly no reason at all. Unfortunately for people like us, these things happen, and I know for me they happen all too often. So that begs the question, what can you do? You can change camouflage patterns, move stands, change your decoy spread, change your calling patterns, in all honesty you can change whatever you want with no guarantee of success.

So often I feel like this happens in our walk with Christ as well. You don’t get the job you prayed you would get or life happens and things aren’t good at home or a family member has health issues and it becomes so easy to get mad and apathetic towards Christ that we stray away and try to handle things on our own. What we don’t realize is that sometimes God’s “No’s” turn into the most beautiful “Yes” we could imagine. Sometimes God gives us battles we can’t handle to show his providence and grace through all things. The only thing you can truly control is your attitude and willingness to persevere through it Press on. Run the race. Run to Jesus.

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2)

Why We Hunt and Why It’s Important

“How can you kill innocent little animals?? They’re so cute. They never did anything to you!”

If you’ve been hunting for any significant length of time and people are aware of this, you’ve had this conversation at least once. People ask me these questions all the time and while i usually just crack a smile and roll my eyes, there are actually some very real, significant answers to why we wake up at four in the morning to sneak through the woods and commit atrocities that are near unthinkable to those who oppose the things we are passionate about. Sadly, people usually only see the surface level of what we do – i.e. shooting animals without remorse. In reality, although the chase and sport of hunting are absolutely reasons that we enjoy what we do, these are far from the most important reasons that we endure early mornings and harsh weather conditions in pursuit of wild game.

Hunting, for me, has been a way to develop some very important relationships in my life. My grandfather, my role model, the single man I aspire to be like most in this world, taught me to hunt and fish from an early age. He taught me the importance of hunting and our duty to harvest animals in the most ethical way possible when we have the opportunity to do so. Most importantly, my grandfather showed me the love of our Creator through the outdoors.

 

Although I was saved at an early age of five years old and truly believe that it was a true conversion experience at that time, it wasn’t until I became active in the outdoors that I really understood how big our God truly is. From the immaculate sunrises through the trees or over the water, to the first song of the morning from the birds as they awake, it is evident that the Father spared no detail in His creation.

 

Without hunters, ecosystems would become vastly overpopulated and animals would begin to die of disease and starvation as opposed to providing healthy meals for families all across the country. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 1.6 million deer-car collisions occur every year leading to “200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries, and over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage.” The resulting animal carcasses are often simply dragged to the side of the road resulting in a never-ending cycle of animals meeting cars, causing injuries or damages, and attracting more animals. It is our job as hunters to help regulate the population of wildlife in an ethical manner so the populations do not increase to dangerously high levels. The book of Genesis even touches on this during the first chapter during the story of Creation. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV).

The first Scriptural reference of actually hunting game comes in Genesis Chapter 27 verse 3 with Issac talking to his firstborn son Esau. Issac says to Esau, “Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me…” Although this is not written in the red letters of Jesus’ audible words like in the New Testament, since we as believers accept that the written word of God is holy and inspired as He tells us it is, it only stands to reason that God wants us to take advantage of the dominion over the animals that He has given us as well.

Hunting, for me, has quickly become a combination of all these reasons that support our passion. My Grandfather taught me from an early age to respect the lives of the animals we take and thank God for the opportunity to enjoy His creation every time we hunt. Although the Father looked at His creation and “saw that it was good,” He also put humans at the top of the food chain for a designed reason with the purpose of being the ultimate provider for us and our families. Take the time today to thank the Lord for his immaculate Creation and the ability we have to enjoy it in such a way that we as hunters fell in love with long ago.

 

 

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My Grandfather, Morris McKee, with his first Caribou