The Wild Places: A Necessity

Wild places are meant to be just that: wild and uncontrolled. Lacking and showing minimal human obstruction. I quite often long to be in that place of solidarity where the surrounding environments seemingly are treacherous. When I feel this, I know that I am in a wild place. I have been in some truly remote environments that bring forth what one would expect a wild place to encompass.  

I find these wild places to be a necessity because it’s essence strips us of our natural element of control that we see in civilization. When we escape to the wild, we are faced with the realization that there is no escape from our thoughts and that we are not in control of the environment around us. The active distractions that we find in our day-to-day routine do not exist in these wild places. We are bombarded with examples of how we should act, think, speak, and the list goes on. We continually rely on this process of forced reality, which is precisely why we need to escape.

If ever there was a time to escape civilization, these current times would dictate so. Human nature is not meant to operate on auto-pilot continually, and we have been operating in this setting for an extended period now. There has to be an adventure, exploration of the unknown, and obstacles to conquer. Without these challenges, we become stagnant, and dare I say we tend towards being irritated/offended at anything and everything.   

With these new trends, we have literally put a mask over our natural instincts to explore and conquer. We search for images and videos of daring adventures to fill our brain and to expand our dreams. When we sit and ponder on these daring dreams, we make no progress. That’s all that these ideas will ever be: dreams. How will you ever conquer an obstacle if you don’t go and do? 

Mountains are meant to be climbed. Oceans are meant to be explored, and the wilderness is meant to be searched. In searching for these obstacles to conquer and dragons to slay, we begin to strip off these things that so easily entangle us. These wild places give us perspective, and that is what we need so badly. In finding perspective, we begin to realize what items, ideas, and actions are hindering us.  

You can’t expect to find revelation sitting in your living room. The best example of this comes from a very famous man. He withdrew to the wild places and sought-after solidarity to first find peace from the outside world, and then search for wisdom. His wilderness was not always easy, and he had many struggles come from his time in these wild places, but the end result of his persistent pursuit was everlasting. His time in the wilderness brought him perspective, guidance, and courage to go forth and conquer the greatest obstacle that has ever been conquered. You can read about this man in a book called the Bible.   

I do not know what season you are in. I cannot guarantee that you will find the answers you are looking for in the wild places. But, if you make your heart vulnerable and listen for His voice, answers will be revealed to you through the moans and groans of the wilderness. Every time I go out searching for answers, I always find that the answers that are shown to me are not what I had expected but were what was needed.

Go out and search for those wild places.  

Psalm 72:3 “The mountains shall bring peace to the people”

Validation

We are indeed a society who are seekers of validation.  When we are feeling down and out, depressed, unloved, we are only a click or two away from that comforting feeling that validation brings us. Social media makes it all too easy for us to get a quick pick me up when we feel down.  But how long does that last?

Validation is rightly functional in many cases, and we owe it too many people to validate them for their efforts and services along with many other things.  But when we seek validation to numb the pain we feel, this is when it becomes dangerous.  By beginning the act of numbing, we delay finding the source of that pain or hurt.

Delaying this process only strengthens the need to feel validated for all the wrong reasons.  And when we continue the cycle in search of validation, the source of our hurt becomes even harder to find. 

You see, in our search for validation, we begin to empty our tank for our emotional well-being.   

Being that we are humans, we can only handle so much before we become emotionally compromised.  The continued pursuit of constant searching for acceptance from the world drains each one of us. 

If we continually look at the world for validation, we will begin to learn the art of compromising. We will compromise our physical, emotional, and spiritual feelings.  We do this so that we might feel accepted. So what do we do if we have completely emptied our tank in one of these three areas? 

Let’s first examine a quote by the man himself, Jesus Christ, in response to a Samaritan woman searching for living water. 

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

The first part of the verse spells out the cycle of seeking worldly validation.  You will always come back for more.  It will never stop.

But you may ask, “So yeah, if I drink of the water offered by Jesus, will I never feel the need to be validated or have my feelings or emotions validated?” Well, no, not exactly. Yes, this isn’t the answer you are looking for, but wait, it gets worse. Let’s look at John 15:19:

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you”

So thus far, we have established that if we search for validation through Jesus, we will still feel the need for worldly validation, and at the same time, our desired source for validation will hate us. What have we really gained in turning to Jesus? Everything!

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23

In our search for validation, we look for something constant and ideally want a source of validation that is perfect.  I mean, who doesn’t want to feel loved and desired 24/7/365.  We all love an encouraging Facebook comment or a stranger complimenting our appearance.

The only constant source that will ever truly fulfill our long desire to be validated is through Jesus.

“In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1st John 4:9-10

You see, God loved you before you ever set foot on this planet. Through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross, we have received the ultimate validation: His love.

Seeking validation through Christ and searching through his Words continually show us how much he approves of us.  But, this does not discount us from the pain of this world.  We will still have our desires to seek validation through the world’s eyes.  This does not mean you are a bad person. We are human and inherently seek out worldly desires. But no matter what, we will also feel empty once we have chased after the world. 

We will not be perfect in our pursuit, but we do have an example of someone who was, and he will always be there to validate us with his merciful love.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Love

Love has a wide range of definitions for just being 4 letter word. Love is one of the greatest motivators present in this world. It can make us do rather stupid things, but at the same time actions brought out from deep love can sometimes not be explained. This word is thrown around with some meanings being profoundly rooted, and others just being surface level. Undoubtedly, there is no better feeling in this world than the feeling of being loved. 

Notice that feeling isn’t derived from someone saying the phrase “ I love you” but comes from the actions associated with it.  

“Well done is better than well said.”- Benjamin Franklin

Anyone can say that they love something or someone. This quote by ole Benjamin himself speaks volumes to me and has made me very aware of the different types of people in this world. I see many examples of what I call “temporary love” or “circumstantial love” in this world. This temporary or circumstantial love equates to empty love. What is love without actions behind this four-letter word?   

 I love James 2, where James talks about works and faith. In my own mind, I see an example of how love works and have changed the word “faith” in this passage to “love.”  

What does it profit if someone says he has love but does not have works? 

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also love by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Show me your love without your works, and I will show you my love by my works

September 29, 2006.

John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  

This is a date that has become well known to me. This date is inscribed on the headstone of Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor. 

When Michael Monsoor began his operations on that September day, he had no idea that it would be the last time he would put his boots on, check his gear, and head out to face an unknown enemy. I am sure when he woke up that morning that he did not go through the process of evaluating what his actions would be if an enemy insurgent threw a grenade onto a rooftop where he was located. The obvious course of action would be to find the nearest exit and head that way as this is not something that he needed to remind himself of every day. It would go against every possible humanly urge to not exit the blast area.

When Michael felt the grenade hit his chest and saw it fall to the ground, he began a very rapid thought process. He first yelled “grenade” to alert his two fellow SEALS who were still actively engaging the enemy. Michael instinctively knew how long he had until the explosion and knew the exact radius of the blast. He had been taught evasive maneuvers in tight quarters, and his body was ready to react to this new deadly threat that was in front of him. He saw his exit and instantly knew the course of action that was needed to keep his body from receiving harm, yet he ignored this course of action. 

He knew the grenade was about to go off. He knew the blast radius. He knew what actions he needed to make to save his life. But, he also knew that doing so would mean the deaths of his two brothers on the roof with him. Michael knew that his two fellow SEALS did not have adequate time to access this threat and take evasive action. He knew what course of action he needed to take. At this moment, Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor lived out John 15:13.   

One action speaks louder than thousands of words. 

Love is an action. Jesus gave us the ultimate gift of love when he died on the cross. But maybe we have become numb as to what this symbol of love truly means in today’s world. Michael A. Monsoor’s legacy lives on today because of his choice to love. It is impossible to comprehend the pain that Michael went through once the grenade impacted his body. There was no doubt in his mind what would happen when he jumped onto that grenade. There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind as to the pain He would experience in the events leading up to his death, yet, because of love, he underwent that path to the cross. 

If you are suffering or hurting and feel as if there is no cure or end in sight to your circumstances, know answers can be found and healing can start through the one who’s love is perfect: Jesus.

Romans 12:9-10 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

September 22, 2019

The following is a detailed description of a successful archery elk hunt.  It is a lengthier read but depicts many details of the adventure leading up to the filling of my 2019 elk tag:

This day in the elk woods started out slow since every bull tag in camp had been filled.  After catching a few extra hours of sleep and filling our bellies with a large breakfast.  A couple of guys and myself set out to glass for black bears.  We hiked in a short distance and set up looking at 2 large north facing valleys.  From the bottom floor, these valleys climbed up in elevation with thick scrub oak, scattered aspen groves and dark timber towards the very top of the range.  Elevations in this area range from 7,200 feet to 8,700 feet above sea level.  Unbeknownst to me is that I would be covered in 18 inches of snow chasing elk in this same area just over 2 weeks from this day.  We spent a little over an hour glassing from the position when we decided to move locations. 

Since I had a cow elk tag, the guys dropped me off on the east side of the ranch with a plan to meet up around 3pm at a set location about 1.5 miles away as the crow flies.  With the wind in my face, I began walking northwest towards some of the dark timber.  My walk was slowed considerably as I had to make my way through blow downs and a thick oak brush area.  Yet, it only took me 15 minutes before I was in the middle of a herd.  I had an elevated position above the herd as they were moving below me at distances ranging from 35- 60 yards.  I moved slowly through the thick timber trying to find a clear lane to place my arrow through. It was very dark in this area and the ground was well worn making my footsteps silent as a moved between the trees in the soft dirt.  Between their movement and the thick brush that lay between me and a my quarry, I was unsuccessful in finding a shooting lane before they moved on down the mountain.  I trailed the herd for half a mile, but as any elk hunter will tell you, it is impossible to catch up to elk.

I spent the next 2 hours slowly making my way through the thick pines.  There was fresh elk sign everywhere I looked.  Many trails had up to 6 inches of lose dirt on them as this was a high traffic area for these animals.  I slowly made my way down the mountain and at some points found myself sliding down because of the steep terrain.  The game was who would see each other first: the elk or me.  Through those two hours, the elk went 3 for 3 on those battles.  2pm found me working my way up a thick brush hillside.  Three weeks later I would be packing out a bull up this same hillside and would be regretting that decision due to the heavy snows that would eventually hit the area.  As I crossed an open gully, I heard some brush crashing about 150 yards in front of me.  With the wind still out of the west, I quickly made my way to the thicket where the noise had originated from.  I made a few cow calls and sure enough a very large bull emerged from the thicket.  This was one of the largest bulls I had seen all season.  He presented a 35 yard shot to which I made a perfect pretend archery shot on him as he made his presence known through a small window in the low level scrub oak. As quick as he appeared, he disappeared back into the brush.  I made my way through this thicket hoping the bull had a few female friends with him, but my search was unsuccessful. 

I made it to our rally point right at 3pm.  I waited 10 minutes under the shade of a pine tree before I started making plans of my own.  Farther to my west was the valley where yesterday Stephen and I had been in the middle of a large herd, and while I was waiting there for the guys, the bulls were bugling their heads off.  My next move was a very poor communication move, but I was in the business of hunting elk and not waiting.  My phone had just died along with my satellite texting device.  I did have a SOS emergency beacon so there was hope if an emergency happened.  I was only 3 miles from the camp and would be hunting my way towards the camp, so off I went.  You can’t kill an elk if you ain’t hunting elk.   

I moved half a mile down the valley keeping to the shadows and thick areas on the mountain side.  I was spotting elk on the opposite hillside and knew that is where I needed to end up. My best plan of action would be to hunt downhill while the afternoon winds were coming uphill in the valley and then hunt back up the mountain side as the winds cooled off and fell down the mountain.  After some crawling, sneaking and tumbling, I had made it undetected to the valley bottom.  I was working my way through a wallow (an elky term for mud bathing area), and as I was about six inches into the mud, a cow elk began to run straight towards me.  I was in the shade of the mountain and she had the sun in her face.  I was fully exposed in the middle of this wallow but she would not be able to see me until she was 20 yards away.  Unfortunately, I could not move fast enough to nock an arrow before she decided that she did not need a mud bath.  Just imagine yourself stuck in the mud with a wild animal running towards you and can understand what I was feeling in that moment.  Very comical if you ask me.

It was still early in the afternoon, so I worked my way farther down the valley keeping the wind in my face.  I pushed my way through the thick creek bottom as I could keep myself just low enough on the bank to stay out of sight.  I was in the middle of a large thicket of pine trees with the east facing hillside to my left.  It was dense and filled with scrub oak.  I heard some branches breaking ahead of me so I dropped down to my knees and readied my bow.  Less than a minute later a bull showed himself at 25 yards. He was an old 5×6 bull (11 pointer for you Texans). He closed the distance to 15 yards and was going to continue walking past me, but a distance bugle changed his path.  This 5×6 did not like that another bull had just bugled in his valley and he quickly changed his course in checking out this other bull.  His new course went right through me.  The 5×6 bull began closing the distance. 12, 10, 8 yards and getting closer.  He stopped about at just under 2 yards from me.  No trees or brush separated us.  He then let out a bugle and stared at me for 20 seconds. I was eye level with his belly.  I could hear his deep breathing and could see his chest expanding with every breath.  He had some slobber coming out of his mouth which was a result of his bugle he just made.  I was doing my best to not burst out in laughter.  He looked puzzled as to what exactly I was, but he had other things on his mind as he continued on his path to go check out the other bull.    

I followed this bull for a few minutes, but soon felt a wind change and knew it was time to change my plans. I backtracked to the wallow where I had been stuck earlier and followed a trail taking me to area where I had spotted the herds of elk a couple hours earlier. As I snuck up the narrow trail, the mountainside began to erupt in bugles and cow chatter.  The trail forked and to my left was an open aspen grove and to my right was a scrub oak thicket.  I stayed right and slowly walked with my eyes peeled on the brush ahead of me.  I began to see elk moving in front of me at 20-40 yards.  This area was too thick for a shot so I continued on the trail hoping to find a clearing ahead. At this point, I had nocked an arrow as to not miss out on any shot opportunity that might arise. I was literally surrounded by elk at this point.  The elk in front of me stayed on a lower trail so I moved above them just slightly and found myself in Aspen grove surrounded by a large scrub oak thicket.  At this point, I had 6 different bulls bugling all around me and could see elk running around me at 60+ yards. There was some smaller trees in the opening in front of me but I knew that I would have a clear shot out to the brush line. I had been in my spot at the edge of this thicket for only a minute when I saw movement coming from the thicket into the opening.  I quickly spotted a cow with a very nice 6×6 bull in chase right behind her. They appeared at my 1 o’clock position at 50 yards and were headed straight towards me so I quickly came to full draw on my bow.  The bull was chasing her hard and she was closing the distance to my location fast.  She was now just 20 yards away and still coming straight towards me.  Once she closed the distance to under 10 yards, I begin to lean to my right to take a frontal shot once she cleared an aspen that was just 3 yards in front of me.  At the last second, she turned and bumped that aspen tree.  With my finger already on the trigger and my mental shot sequence completed, I found her shoulder as she was sprinting by me and made the shot.  From when I first saw the cow to when I released the arrow was only 6-7 seconds at most. Things happen quick in the elk woods.

After I had released the arrow on the cow, she immediately turned and headed back to where she had first appeared out of the thicket.  The bull still in full chase ran by me at 5 yards and followed the cow.  The cow only made it 20 yards before she started heading downhill.  I heard her fall maybe 100 yards down the mountain before the brush caught her.  The bull stopped and looked at her for a couple seconds then proceeded the chase of another female.  No elk knew I was there or was aware of what had just happened.  Knowing my arrow had been well placed, I quickly found it buried in the ground with the fresh smell of lung blood coating the arrow.  I hiked over to where I last saw the cow and saw her piled up in a large bush just down the mountain side.  Upon inspection, my shot placement was exactly where I had instructed my previous hunters from the weeks before on where to aim on there elk.  At this point, I finally began to get the shakes as the adrenaline began to hit me pretty hard.  During the whole shot process, I had been calm, cool and collected and never once felt nervous, but now that the job had been completed the nerves finally set it. I great feeling to have after a very successful bow hunt.

The next 90 minutes consisted of me wrestling the elk to keep my meat from getting dirty.  The slope was at such an angle so that when I removed a leg from the carcass, the elk would lose a hold on the brush and would slide down a ways.  Once I had taken every piece of meat of the elk, I had moved about 25 yards down the mountainside. A very rewarding yet exhausting job.  I quickly deboned all of the meat and stored in in my meat bags.  Once I had all of the meat stored safely I laid out all of my gear to run through a check of equipment.  Once that was completed, I began the process of loading up my pack.  First loading half of the meat in between my frame and my bag.  Once that was strapped down, I proceeded to load the other half in my bag followed by the rest of my gear and of course my bow.  Standing up was a challenge, but once up I began the slow trip down the mountain. Last light had just left as I began my trek down so my eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness.  Because of the weight of my bag and the slope angle, I could not walk down the mountain so in turn I just slid down the whole way.  After 45 minutes of doing that, I finally reached the valley floor and began my way to the nearest road. Tired, dehydrated and bleeding made me very excited to make it to flatter country.

Not expecting a ride, I decided to just slowly start making my way back to camp.  My hope was that someone would happen to drive down the road and would give me a ride, but unfortunately luck was not with me in those regards on that day.  For the next 1-2 hours(remember, I didn’t have my phone so I don’t know for sure how long the last part of my trip was), I walked looking at a multitude of stars and listened to coyotes and elk bugles.  There truly is no feeling like feeling the weight of a successful hunt.  I thought of many memories and past unsuccessful hunts and enjoyed every step I was taking.  I arrived back to camp quite hungry and thirsty and very ready to get my pack off of my back.  The rest of the guys showed up thirty minutes later and we enjoyed a late night filled with stories of elk failures and successes.  Just another day in the elk woods.   

Don’t be a Loser

Four things that have been resonating in my mind recently.  Two of these are Bible verses and two are from a video of a good friend of mine who served in the Navy.

2nd Timothy 1:7- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”

2nd Samuel 17:8 “You know your father and his men. They are warriors as fierce as a wild bear whose cubs have been stolen. Your father is an experienced soldier. He will not camp with the troops tonight.”

“If you can use adversity correctly, you can accomplish great things.”

“If you’re not getting better, you’re ******* dying”

I believe that the personification of a Christian, especially Christian men, in today’s society is one of someone who obeys the rules, goes to church because he or she is supposed to since the Bible says so, is passive in many of his different dealings rather those be work-related or recreational, and someone who won’t fight.  For anyone who has grown up in church, we heard all the bible stories. Most likely, these stories were represented with cute little graphics that were the farthest thing from a blood bath.   All the stories were rated G for the most part.  Somewhere in there, people have believed that all our Bible characters were specially anointed and were perfect examples of a Christian.  My most favorite example of this is the story of the powerful woman, Esther.  If you have never paid attention to the details of her story, you are missing out on some crazy facts.  

With these variables combined, it is easy to see how the world can view a Christian as passive or a loser.  The always quoted line “turn the other cheek” is said mockingly as people figure that Christians will take abuse over and over again.  I will tell you one dude in the Bible who, in many cases, didn’t turn a cheek and took calculated actions to fix a problem: God.

Go read how he flooded the whole earth and killed EVERYONE except for Noah and his family.  Go read in the book of Judges about how God caused an entire Midianite army to turn on themselves and kill each other. Go read about how He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.  God isn’t just some passive guy sitting on a throne of flowers.  He truly lives in a spirit of power, love, and grace, and fights against fear and timidity when it comes to furthering his Kingdom.

I love the verse in 2nd Samuel, and the reference used to describe David as a “wild bear whose cubs have been stolen.”A mamma bear is probably one of the most ferocious animals in the world when her cubs are in jeopardy.  Nothing will stop her from getting them back. Trust me, I have found myself between a bear and her cubs before.  David himself was a man after God’s own heart, yet he committed adultery.  On top of that, he made it so that man whose wife he had relations with was put in a position where he would have a very high chance of dying, and that man did die.  Even with that on his resume, David, to me, is one of the purest examples of a man who lived with power, love, and self-discipline.  The man wrote poetry, killed bears, lions, and a giant as a child, and he led many armies into battles.  To say David was timid is a far reach.  Yes, David made mistakes, but he was genuine in his repentance and found forgiveness through his Savior.  David is the kind of warrior every Christian you strive to be. 

Don’t be a loser.  To say that you need to be squeaky clean and be perfect to be a Christian comes from the idea of being religious.  Religious people judge quickly and can always find faults with all your actions.  Even the actions we take that are direct commands from God can be seen as evil or the wrong move in the eyes of someone who puts religion above their Savior.  A warrior of Christ can see all of those faults and see the good that will come out of those things.  Take Paul in the New Testament. Before Paul was Paul, he was Saul, aka the Christian killer who was straight up murdering Christians with rocks.  Even while that was going on, Jesus said that Saul was soon going to be an instrument for expanding His Kingdom.

Paul was a warrior and devoted his life to spreading the good news of Jesus.  Shipwrecked, snake bit, and imprisoned, his story is straight out of a movie script.  Paul was put on this earth for a purpose.  That purpose was to show that the greater the adversity, the greater the recovery and the greater the story.  Paul used his screw-ups to bring others to Jesus.  This is not only Paul’s purpose, but it is every Christian’s purpose in this life.

Taking the two verses and two quotes from above, we can begin to understand how we can fight fear and timidity along with the things in life that so easily ensnare us.  The world wants us to become complacent and not grow. If you are a Christian and you are not seeking growth, you are losing ground. When this happens and it will because we are sin-natured, the world will jump at the opportunity to call you a loser.  Continued actions in the state of timidity is not what we as Christians are called to do.

Our own internal voice will reason with this and will find ways to make this “loser mentality” a reality in our lives.  There is one person who will never call you a loser: Jesus.  He loved you before you fell short and failed.  He loves you as you are going through that failure, and He will love you in the aftermath.  The greater the hardship, the greater the recovery. Fight through that adversity with the ferociousness of a bear whose cubs have been stolen. Seek repentance when repentance is necessary and ask for forgiveness when forgiveness is needed. Don’t be timid. Don’t be a loser. Be self-disciplined, be powerful, and above all else, love.

Why you should listen to the Guide

I’ll throw a few numbers at you to give us a starting point.  Say you find yourself wanting to chase an elk anywhere in the mountains. Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, it doesn’t matter where.  The odds of you being successful and taking an elk are not in your favor.  Most areas give a hunter less than a 15% chance of shooting an elk.  But if we look at hunters who use a guide, you are looking at an average that I would say is safely above 90%. Why the drastic difference? 

Before you go there, this is not an article persuading you to drop some money on a guided hunt.  When a hunter decides to go on a non-guided hunt he is already at a disadvantage. He isn’t aware of how the animals have been reacting to weather, how the pressure from other hunters is affecting the wildlife and may very well never have even set foot in the area that he is planning on hunting in.  Guides make their living understanding animal movements by being in the field.  Field time and experience in understanding certain areas goes a long way in increasing success rates. In turn, we can share our knowledge with our hunters and help them increase their success rate at that exact moment, and for every adventure they embark on in the future.  I for one can tell you that there is nothing more intimidating than looking at a mountain and figuring out how you are going to get in range of the quarry you are after.  So how can you increase your chances of being successful? By repetition and seeking advice.  

Last season, I was in the field guiding elk hunts for 45 days.  I was on 20 shots and 15 kills to give you reference.  Now granted, I was in an area that had a very high density of elk and little pressure from other hunters, but elk are still elk.  It is a hard thing to get within range of a wild animal in its natural habitat.  Given that I have been guiding hunting trips for 7 years now, I have seen my fair share of successful trips.  There are many men and women who have been at it longer than me, but 7 years is a long time.  The more repetitions I have been able to have and the more experience I have been able to obtain has helped me do my job better.  I have also had plenty of men and women show me the ropes on how to be a successful guide.  A guide’s job is to put his client on an animal that is a perfect representation of what he wants and provide an opportunity for the client to take a shot on that animal.  If you can’t consistently do that, you won’t be a guide for very long.

All this to say, why would you set a goal and not seek advice from someone who has been there, done that.  If you want to learn how to become a good hunter, why wouldn’t you ask questions from veteran hunters or guides?  The same goes for your walk with the Lord.  The Lord is the “ultimate Guide” and also has many other “apprentice guides” working under him.  Some of these are easily seen through our pastors at church and others can be seen throughout your community.  Our “ultimate Guide” has experienced every hurt and pain this world has to offer, and He knows what you are feeling.  His “apprentice guides” have experienced and are experiencing the same pains and hurts and are walking with their Guide to find healing from these knowing that He makes good of all things. Not seeking advice and playing the victim card in your walk with the Lord makes you just an “okay” Christian.  When a hunter goes out into the field, he doesn’t look to be just an “okay” hunter and fill his tag every once in a while.  He wants to be a great hunter and be successful in his pursuits.  It’s not “okay” to just be an “okay” Christian.

Going about life with that 15% success rate is not how we should live our lives for Christ.  What a waste that would be. There are many guides out there who can help you with your walk rather that be physically, spiritually or mentally.  Even us guides in the hunting world need help and seek advice from outside sources.  Listen to the “ultimate Guide” first and in doing that He will place “apprentice guides” in your life who will help you on your journey.

Guided hunts take an investment from a hunter but increase the success rates.  Giving your life to Christ takes an even greater investment but gives you a 100% success rate on this most important adventure you will ever embark on. Maybe it’s time you listened to the Guide and made that investment.   

How a good guide deals with a change in plans

My current view while writing these few words consists of 2 whitetail deer feeding about 120 yards from me.Birds of all kinds are letting their existence be known. It is unseasonably chilly here in West Texas as we have had some heavy rainstorms and northern winds blow through the past few days. With everything that is going on in the world, this place is truly peaceful.

Undoubtedly you are tired of hearing about the current world news and have been affected by it in some form or fashion. I admit that these current times make me even more impatient for September when I can escape to the mountains to chase after elk. When September comes, I brace myself for the many ups and downs that come with the long season. As soon as I believe that I have everything figured out, something on the mountain changes, and makes me look like a fool. Daily things in life are just the same. Just when we think that we have this whole life thing figured out, it throws a wrench into what we feel are our perfect plans. Our own life goals and plans are so limited to what we are capable of.  

Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,” declares the Lord. “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

As plans almost always change, I wanted to share a few habits that separate a bad guide from a good guide when change happens in the field. There are many different times in a person’s life when they have a fight or flight moment. A good guide always fights. 

1. A good guide is versatile

To be a good guide, you must be versatile. Able to make changes on the fly and adapt to situational circumstances. Most successful hunts have a few twists and turns that were not expected. When these twists and turns happen, a guide does not just sit down on a log and let the day go on. A guide takes what he is given and makes the best out of it. A guide’s job is to make his hunter successful, or at the very least, provide an opportunity for that hunter to be successful. If there was a known outcome or if there was a 5-step process of where to go and what to do to kill an elk, the hunt would be much less enjoyable. 

2. A good guide takes action

A good guide can look at a mountain and form a plan of action. That plan changes with different wind directions, changes in weather, changes in animal location, and many other factors. Once the plan is in place, and the guide has made progress, everything that he was confident in can be thrown out the door as a new situation presents itself. Any moment where a guide doesn’t take action is a failure on his part. To be successful, you must take the initiative and know-how to carry out a plan. If there were a verse that was meant for hunting guides, it would be this one: 

Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope;be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.”

3. A good guide recognizes what he has

The one thing that I love about being a hunting guide is that even on the worst of days in the field, I am still a hunting guide. What I consider as one of the best jobs on the planet is what I can do. I can say the same about having a relationship with Christ. At the end of even the worst days, I know that all things work together for His good. As I move through my many seasons, questions arise about what my purpose is and how I am supposed to fulfill that purpose with my current circumstances. Yet, with all of this uncertainty, I know I have the greatest gift that anyone could receive. The gift of love, forgiveness, and eternal salvation, and I have the ability to spread those gifts with everyone.  

4. A good guide is comfortable in uncomfortable situations

While I am “on the clock” with my guiding jobs, I really could care less about what kind of weather or what other circumstances are going on that could affect my comfort in the field. I am aware of what my job is and know what I must do to accomplish that job. A good guide must make it a habit of being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. As we all go into this season of discomfort, many of us will decide to be stagnant and just ride it out. That is not what we are made to do because if we aren’t moving forward, we are going backward. There is no middle ground. You know what areas you are lacking in and have the available time and resources to work on those areas. Netflix and Disney+ won’t fix any of your issues. Perhaps what we all need is to face a little discomfort to appreciate those times of real comfort. Even the best guides get tired and need rest. There is no shame in struggling to find purpose or the encouragement required to fight on. At some point in our lives, we will need to find peace and rest, and there is only one way to do that: 

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

How to be an Instrument

Before you read this, ask yourself this question: what was one solid point that I took away from the last sermon, podcast, etc. that I listened to? 

If you have gone this far as too click on a link that brought you here to my page, here are three points I will make in this piece that will help you be an instrument for noble purposes: 

                                                          1. Be prepared

                                                          2. Be disciplined 

                                                          3. Refuse timidity 

If that is all you read of this page, then at least you have laid just a tiny bit of a foundation in coming to realize how you can be an instrument for noble purposes. But if that is all you ever do, then you are from being an instrument, and saying that you are such is a lie.

   Be Prepared

I would be willing to bet that most people are familiar with the parable of the sower in the Bible. The short scoop is that a dude goes out and plants seeds on a path, in the rocks, in the thorns, and on the soil. I have heard that passage so many times and it always resonated with me in a surface level experience. It wasn’t until I asked myself the question that I put at the beginning of this article. I didn’t have a clue as to what my preacher had talked about the last Sunday. Reading through Mathew 13 a couple of weeks ago, I came up with the realization that, for the most part, the “church” is not prepared. We are just like Mathew 13 in that we hear God speaking and do one of the following: 1. We hear the message, don’t understand it, and don’t seek answers 2. We hear the message, receive it with joy, but quickly discard it 3. We hear the message, but the worries of life, money, and all of this world’s physical things take priority and choke out what God is trying to say to us. 

Most of us just go to church to get our weekly fill of Jesus in and proceed on with our life. No wonder the church gets a bad name. No wonder so many people thinks Christians are passive, timid and weak. We don’t prepare ourselves to wage war. If we are to call ourselves instruments, we have to prepare for the known so that the unknown can be conquered. To accomplish this, we must receive the word and soak it in like fertile soil that is watered continuously and tended to. We must be ready to be an instrument for noble purposes in and out of season. Evil doesn’t care what season you are in; it will prey on you like a wolf.  It is out there waiting to hit us at our weakest point, and if we aren’t prepared, we will fall. Don’t let that wolf catch you. Prepare yourself to be an instrument for spiritual warfare. 

Be Disciplined 

Being well prepared leads to being well disciplined. There are two different angles in this point that I have found that are necessary; we must 1. Be disciplined in what we do, and 2. Must be able to accept discipline.

As everyone knows, discipline sucks. Straight up. No matter how skilled you become, discipline always hurts. Hebrews 12:11 says it perfectly: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” By choosing to follow after Christ, you are consciously making a decision that will demand you to remain disciplined and require you to be disciplined. Following Christ doesn’t make discipline any easier, but it gives us a foreseeable goal to which we can strive towards. This makes any form of discipline worthwhile. Men and women show their power by being self-disciplined. Now being self-disciplined requires that we be strategic in our actions. We cannot just “run aimlessly or fight like a man beating the air” for a season and then come out and say that we have prepared for spiritual warfare. You may be prepping for a hundred-meter dash when God has a marathon waiting for you, or you may be prepping to fight someone in your weight class when God has a heavyweight champ he wants you to take on. Discipline takes preparation. We must make our body a slave to preparation and discipline because the body will fight us. Your soul is willing to take on these challenges, but the body is weak. 

We cannot be an instrument for noble purposes if we do not humble ourselves to be self-disciplined for the Lord and to receive his discipline humbly. 

Refuse Timidity

By preparing yourself and finding discipline, we must wage war against our body’s worldly desires. This is not a 3-step program, and this 3rd point is not the summit of the previous two. If you think that by doing these first two points that you will somehow reach your end goal, you are far off my friend. Only by preparing yourself and staying disciplined over and over and over again will you achieve your real end goal when Christ calls you home. For some people, this means 90+ years of service, and for others, it only involves 1 week of service. (If that previous sentence confuses you, read the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Mathew 20.) We don’t know how long we have on this earth, and thus life is too short to live in a state of timidity. Come to the Lord with the description that is found in 2nd Samuel 17:8, where David’s pursuers describe he and his men like “fighters as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs.” If you have never seen a momma bear with her cubs, I can assure you that you do not want to be the object that is in between her and her little ones as you would soon feel overwhelmed, to say the least. By preparing yourself and staying disciplined with an attitude that refuses timidity, the areas in your life that you and your peers see as spiritually weak will change over time. You will begin to see those areas change and over time will be able to say I was once weak, but have been made strong. This is a process. Don’t be scared of the process, for as soon you become proud of yourself; humility will fall in your lap.   

To sum up this short read, know that what you do today reflects on tomorrow. Your actions today may seem insignificant, but somewhere down the road, you will either reap the rewards or consequences of your efforts from the past. Life is too short to act timidly, and every day is precious. 

We are not promised tomorrow, so don’t put off being an instrument for noble purposes today.    

Noble, Holy, Useful and Prepared

2nd Timothy 2:20-21

“In a large house there are many articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.(21) If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at my church that I grew up in. As I prepared and prayed on what exactly I should speak on, I read through the book of 2nd Timothy. It took me an extended period to make it through the 1st chapter, as many of the verses had me researching each word. These two verses really resonated with me. I spoke on the 21st verse. The thought had been made clear to me on how my life experiences and struggles had shaped me into a tool to help people in what some people would call unusual methods and locations. The Wilderness has shaped me in many ways, and these two verses do a fantastic job of explaining some of my experiences in a more formalized way. The following is a breakdown of how I read these verses. I have seen these very words applied in my life through the ministry efforts that I am involved in with the Wilderness settings.

Verse 20.

Each wilderness setting brings different elements to the table. There are many adventures that I have been on that had that curb appeal to them. 

These could be the gold level or best of the best when it comes to what pleases the eye. There are also many of these adventures that did not have that curb appeal. No matter what the experience looked like from the outside, it was either building me up spiritually or trying to take away from my foundation by waging spiritual warfare. There is nothing wrong with having articles of gold and silver in a house, just like there is nothing wrong with having wood and clay items in that same house. 

But with these items that we have either accumulated or have been gifted comes the decision we make. What will you do with these items? Will you use these items of gold, silver, wood, and clay for noble purposes, or will we use them to satisfy our selfish desires? 

Through my time in wild places, I have obtained many items and have collected many skills. Some of these things were used for noble purposes and some for ignoble purposes. I have spent too much of my time using these items of gold and clay to chase after things and experiences that were ignoble. It wasn’t until I began the process of erasing these desires that I found my purpose. This is still an ongoing process, but in that, I have seen that it is okay to have lots of money or to live from paycheck to paycheck. It is okay to be an extrovert or be an introvert. We are all made with so many different parts and pieces. There are many gifts, skills, and blessings that are gifted to us for many various reasons. With each one of these, you must decide to use that item for noble purposes or the latter. You may be the type of person that would become hopelessly lost if someone handed you a compass and said to head west, and that is okay. Not everyone is meant to have the ability to navigate through the Wilderness. Still, you have other skills, excellent skills that, when combined with the right people, can make something that is truly life-changing. Use what skills you have for noble purposes and find others around you who strive for the same.

Verse 21.

The words in this verse are so powerful. How great would it be for someone to introduce like this, “Meet _______, he is a great man as he is an instrument for noble purposes.” If you read that and say that you wouldn’t want that introduction, then you are stubborn and a liar in my book. My speech at my hometown church was modeled after what I feel are the three things that a warrior is called to:

1. to be an instrument for noble purposes

2. to be useful to the Master

3. to be prepared to do any good work

My mind thinks about many different things at one time, especially when it comes to writing. 

Because of this, I am going to write an article on each of these three things as they each deserve specific and intentional attention. As seen in verse 20, if you search out for noble things and get rid of these items and pursuits that so quickly evaporate what true nobility is, your reward is there waiting for you in verse 21. Of course, this is not a physical award such as a plaque or a medal, and there will never be a moment when you reach the pinnacle of finding what noble purposes you are placed on this earth for. In striving for nobility in Christ, we set ourselves up to wage war in many different realms for as long as we are alive on this earth. This means a lifetime of physical, mental, and spiritual warfare. Evil is trying to find a way to break your mind, body, and soul, and it will use whatever he can get his hands on to do that.

Rather it is an extraordinary item of gold or a basic item of clay; he can find ways for you to use it that are far from noble.  

I urge you to read 2nd Timothy 2:20-21 when you are feeling unmotivated to fight this battle.

You have been placed on this earth at this specific time in history for a noble purpose. Use what items you have in your quiver to fight for that noble purpose and surround yourself with men who are doing the same.     

The Wilderness Series- Placement

People ask me what I do for work, and I have yet to find a shortened answer to that question.  I have a very odd way of making a living, and some would go as far as to say that I am living the dream.  Being in the right place at the right time rather by strategic movements or sheer luck has brought me to my current season that I am.  The one thing that is common with my many different job titles is that I am required to find the nearly perfect placement in the various activities that I am involved in.

Wrong placement is often seen and realized much quicker than proper placement.  A scenario that has played through my head the past 6 months is that of a bull elk that slipped through my hunter’s grasp.  Despite my efforts to close the distance on the mature bull and my ability to call the bull into just under 8 yards, we were still unsuccessful in killing our intended target.  As the early sun was rising over the mountain to our east, it peaked just before the bull showed himself.  This bull looked magical as he silhouetted himself on the ridge, appearing more like a dragon with his breath glowing in the early morning sun.  At the last second, before he had appeared, I had moved our setup to the right about five yards.  This proved to be my error as the bull came in with the sun at his back, which pretty much blinded us and made it impossible for my hunter to see his bow sight. That right there is bad placement due to guide error. 

Rather I am guiding elk hunters, talking to customers or leading veterans on a backpacking expedition, I find that I must place myself in situations that will not only make me successful but also the men I am leading.  So much of what I do hangs on where I put my feet, where I place my thoughts and where I place my heart. 

Just as I look to place myself and others into situations that will be successful, God has placed me in situations that He knows I will be successful in.  This success may bring me worldly glory, but in the end, it brings Him glory. His placement is always perfect, and His timing of that placement is always perfect. 

You may be going through a season right now where you are questioning your current placement with your job, relationship status; the list can go on.  I want to encourage you to press on. You may not believe you are set up for success, but God believes you are.  He can see your promise even in your hardest season.  Your placement in that hard season is worth your patience as the longer the winter, the greater the harvest.