Thought I would share this article (WHY I HUNT: AN OPEN LETTER TO ANYONE WHO JUST DOESN’T GET IT January 7, 2016 by Lyla Luoto – YCC Member )

I don’t often repost other folks work but thought that I would share this blog that I actually found on Facebook written by a member of the Michigan Youth Conservation Council.


Posted on January 7, 2016 by michiganycc

I don’t hunt for the “sport” of it. I don’t get my kicks rifling down furry woodland animals to prove my dominance as a species or to compete against other hunters. I don’t do it for the trophy; some people do, but this isn’t about other people. This is about why I choose to go out into the woods and take the life of an animal.

My first reason for hunting is because I eat meat.

Eating meat and using animal products is an ethical dilemma and there are a growing number of people who are not okay with it. I respect their compassion and their views, and I don’t look down upon them for not wanting to take the life of another living creature. However, I choose to eat meat, and my reasons for that are a part of a whole different debate.

Hunting reconnects me with nature.

We are natural, biological creatures, and I believe we are engineered to love and connect with nature on a very deep level. I believe nature is a very important component to our intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual development. This is an element of life that many people have lost touch with, or have never been in touch with. People in today’s society mindlessly eat hamburgers from McDonalds and pick up a package of chicken breasts from the super market every day. Do they ever stop to think about the cows and pigs that were killed to feed them? In most cases, no. People are constantly consuming and are too often oblivious to where these things have come from.

When I go out into the forest and feel the crisp air, the non-paved earth beneath my feet, and the sun shining through the trees, I return home. I feel whole and completely stress-free. All of the artificialness of civilized life is gone, and I am now part of something much older, greater, and powerful. Upon killing a deer, and kneeling beside it to touch it’s still-warm shoulder, I become part of the circle-of-life in a way that is lost when ordering that bacon cheeseburger. I can see the direct consequence of what I will later consume. And I feel much better about cooking and eating the venison that I took from a mature, adult deer that I know lived a free and natural life, than I do eating a bacon cheeseburger that came from animals from who knows where, that lived who knows what kind of lives. There are good farms, that take care of their animals and give them a quality life, and there are very bad farms that do just the opposite. If I’m not the one responsible for killing what I eat, it’s likely that I’ll never know.

As mentioned before, I understand whole-heartedly some people do not believe in eating meat or animal products at all and I respect that. But there are far too many people that will gladly eat a McDouble, but will spit on hunters for shooting a deer. I believe that if I am going to be someone who eats meat, I should be able to kill an animal I am eating with my own hands; otherwise I would feel like a hypocrite and a coward.

I have been hunting for around six years now; I have killed 6 deer. One each year. I am experienced and knowledgeable enough to know where and how to shoot a deer to make it as humane and painless as possible and what age and size is appropriate to take. I don’t do it for the “thrill of killing” I don’t do it to get the “biggest trophy.” If you talk to a genuine outdoorsperson that hunts, you will find it is about something much bigger than that. It is about respect, connection and consequence. I hope people can see that. So happy hunting to everyone. Stay safe, and remember to respect Mother Nature and the life that you are taking.

Lyla Luoto – YCC Member


Deer Down

I finally got it done!

So much has happened since I last wrote…but that gives me plenty of material to write about correct?

Kelly, my younger brother, called and suggested I come down for a morning hunt.  Understand that when he invites me down for a hunt it isn’t just an around the corner trip.  I’m an hour and a half away from our favorite hunting ground.  So, when he said 5:00 inwardly I groaned, but I agreed and scrambled to get my gear together.

3:15 rolls around and I do my best to roll out without waking the wife.  I’d already showered and packed my gear in the truck and set out my hunting clothes the night before.  I dressed quickly and headed out the door, not looking forward to the long drive.  Feeling tired and hungry I stop by Walmart and grab a G2 protein bar and two Low Cal Monsters and hit the road.

We met at the parking spot, chatted for a little while I strap on my climbing harness, get my tree stand on my back, and grab my bow.  We head out towards our perspective trees with him leading the way.  We get a few yards from the vehicles and he stops and turns around.  He puts his hand on my shoulder and bows his head.  He says a simple prayer, asking for a good hunt, whether that be fellowship or fare for the table, and that all be according to the will and the glory of God.  Amen, and we are on our way.

We’re hunting a bow only public property that is being leased for crops.  Not a bad idea as it gives the deer a steady source of vegetation as well as variety.  We know the lay of the land fairly well and our selected spots are within eyesight of the vehicles.

In order to get to where we are going we walk about 300 yards through a break in the trees, then hang a left and about 100 yards to my tree which faces a long sweeping field that is a little over 50 yards wide.  Kelly’s tree is across the field to another tree line and another couple hundred yards down.

We wave at each other and I climb through some foliage to the base of my tree.  Being in the brush, pre-dawn, trying to setup a climbing tree stand is sometimes an exercise in frustration.  I think back to the last time that I attempted to climb this tree and grimace.  My foot strap broke about 5′-0″ off the ground so I wound up hunting off the ground.  Not a performance I wanted to repeat.  Luckily everything went off without a hitch.

My spot is an interesting one.  My tree is almost too big for my stand so starting off the base is almost at a 45 degree angle, but the tree tapers very quickly into a manageable climb.  I have to get this just right.  If I climb too high I stand up into the canopy above for a shot, too low and I cannot see over the foliage between me and the field.

I got it right.

I sit in the chill of the December air waiting for shooting light.  I close my eyes then feel the vibration of the cell phone in my chest pocket.  I peel off a glove, fish it out and see that Kelly has text me.  Shooting light.  As I put the phone back in my pocket I notice that Mitzi has text me, “Good Luck!  I love you”

I attach my release to the D loop and settle.  I didn’t have long to wait.  I find myself staring at my broad heads.  One of my main concerns is a clean kill.  The broadhead I have selected is one that my Physical Therapist had given me.  He didn’t know what they were, knew that I had an archery ministry so passed them on to me.  I later discovered that they were Steelforce Sabertooths.

I heard something to my left and see brown.  It’s a doe, but she’s almost into the brush in front of me.  No shot.  Then I see two fawns walk scamper out into the middle of the field.  Followed by a doe.  I slowly stand up.

From his vantage point Kelly can see my tree and the deer.  He later tells me that he has been praying all morning that he be with me when I take my first deer.  The good Lord decided to answer his prayer.

Unaware of what Kelly is doing, I slowly raise my bow.  I figure I am about 30 yards out but being cautious I split the difference between the 20 and 30 yard pins and release my arrow.  I remember praying for a clean hit.

I watch the doe react to the impact.  The doe under me runs across the field, the fawns flee.  My intend target takes a hard left headed towards a break in the trees.  I watch the second doe as she gets to the treeline and pauses.  Nice lines, I’ve knocked another arrow and toy with the idea of taking another shot.  She decides it for me and disappears into the trees.

I breath and sit down.  I remember Kelly and text him “Deer down”.  Then I shake.  I lift my eyes to heaven and give thanks.  I bow my head, close my eyes, and listen.  I hear movement again.  I look up and the second doe is moving across the field again.  Nervous, unsure.  I remember thinking about taking the shot again but decide against it.

We give it another half hour and then climb down.  We meet in the middle of the field.  Kelly asks me where it was standing and I show him.  We immediately find the blood trail leading into the trees.  We follow the blood trail into the brush.  I recall Kelly asking me what kind of broad heads I was using and him saying they did their job well.  We find the deer beside a log so I grabbed it’s tail and pulled it out into the open.

I grimaced when I saw the wound.   It wasn’t as clean a hit as I wanted.  I spined it right at the hip and clipped a major artery.    It went about 20 yards and bled out quickly.  Then I noticed the buttons.  Not a doe, but a button buck.  Not what I wanted but what was provided.

We prayed a prayer of thanks and took the mandatory first deer pictures. Kelly demonstrated how to field dress a deer then went to his truck to get a deer cart he had just acquired while I use the TWRA app on my iPhone to check in my deer.  When he gets back we lifted the deer on to the cart and with a twinkle in his eyes he said “It’s yours haul it out!”

So I grabbed the handle and off I went.   Little did I know that he was taking pictures as I was pulling the cart through the field.  I still have them on my phone.

I was tired and looking forward to learning to butcher my deer.  I was also thankful.  Thankful for the bounty, but more thankful for the time that I spent with my brother.  It’s amazing the amount of fellowship two men can experience several hundred yards apart.

IMG_2783  IMG_2784


For those of you that are following my post or have followed my post I apologize for not  writing in quite a while.  There is a perfectly good explanation I promise!  She’s about 5′-1″ tall, prettiest hazel eyes you ever saw and serves as my most honest critic.  I would often leave my posts up for her to read and we would talk about them when I got home from work.  The last several posts were, in her words, “rushed”  So, I took a hiatus.  Forgive my verboseness.

I titled this post purpose because I want to talk about purpose.  I’ve had jobs and a career  but was never content in what I did.  I’ve worked construction in many different forms, was a soldier, draftsman, and finally a project coordinator, all of which I did very well.  But I was miserable.  There was no joy in it for me.

In 2004 I found myself working for an OEM Auto parts manufacturer which is a very strange place for an architectural project manager to be, but they had a need for my services and I had a need for their money.   Eventually the man that hired me moved on and I inherited a new boss.  We did not care for one another and we both knew that eventually I would be let go but that he would have to manufacture a way to do so. During this time my wife and I had been working with young people at our church and I began to confess to her that I had always dreamed of being a teacher.  She was surprised but supportive, so I  began to pursue my Masters of Arts in Secondary Education.  I cannot remember working harder towards any one thing in my life, but I relished the challenge.

I did eventually lose the manufacturing job and found myself the unemployed father of 5 Master’s student scrambling to make ends meet working whatever construction jobs that I could scrounge up.  My wife never questioned our position and the good Lord kept a roof over out head and food in our mouths.  I remember finishing my last course work class and filling out the paperwork to do my student teaching portion of the degree…and waiting. The money ran out and my wife and I discussed it.  I found work with one of the world’s largest dollar stores in the corporate office.  The money was good but I hated the work.

Meanwhile my placement advisor is struggling to find me a school.  He called and told me that Sumner County said no the same day we applied and that Robertson County said no promises but they would look into it. So I worked and waited.  Then Wednesday arrived.  Phil, my placement advisor, sent me new paperwork to select two new districts.  I had been struggling with this and had all but come to the conclusion that God had closed the door on this portion of my life and that I should stay where I was.  I had composed an email to Phil and then decided to go to lunch before I sent it. I called my wife and we talked about what we should do.  She reminded me that God had brought us this far and that we should continue to trust him.  So we prayed and I went back to work.  I sat at my desk and an email popped up.  It was Phil and it was very criptic “I’m calling you”  I raised me eyebrow, looked at my phone and almost jumped out of my skin phone when it rang.

Phil was nearly breathless when I answered, “You’re not going to believe this!”  I shook my head and rolled my eyes as if he could see me and asked, “Believe what?”  My world spun when he said “Robertson County just came through!” I did some quick calculations and figure that since it was the end of January this school year was out, I could stay where i was save some money and start next school year…”Ok…when do I start?”  I nearly had to pick myself up off the floor when he responded “Monday”  I asked “Monday, when?”  He sounded exasperated “This coming Monday!”

This was a whole new set of problems!  I had to call my wife and discuss finances…again.  Then I had to go quit my job.  I had a meeting to attend with my cooperating teacher and field supervisor the next day.  So off to a running start and scrambling I embarked on the path of becoming a student teacher.  At 42 years old I embarked upon the career I had always dreamed of.   The thought shook me to my very core…me…a teacher.

When I started my cooperating teacher told me “Do not expect to get a job here.  People retire or die from this school”  By the time I left I had made some great friends and both the principal and cooperating teacher told me that if something came open they would give me a call.  Student teaching complete…all done.  We had enough money to get through to the start of the school year. I started filling out applications.  Towards the start of the school year I had applications in at 8 school districts across two states.  No calls.  Nothing.  My teacher friends told me to not be discouraged.  But I was looking at my dwindling checking account, shrinking larder, and saw little or no hope.

It was the end of July and graduation day had finally arrived.  My lovely bride and I were once again going to be walking down the aisle for the third time.  We graduated together in High School, our wedding, and now she had earned her bachelors degree the same time I earned my masters. Our families, as they often do, planned an intimate after affair party, at which I discovered that the prime rib that I ate was tainted and I received a good dose of food poisoning.  I was miserable.  My wife tended to me, feeding me sprite, crackers, and a wonderful does of phenergan.

I finally dosed off at about 6:00 in the morning only to be awakened at 9:00 by my phone shattering the silence. I let it ring figuring a bill collector who had of late become aware of my phone number at an alarming rate.  The phone fell silent.  Silence is good.  Then it chimed letting me know I had a voice mail.  I stirred up the strength to get out of bed and get my phone off the dresser that stood ominously across the room.  I fumbled my way through the menu’s and checked the message.  It was a number I didn’t know and the voice was unfamiliar, but the message he left made my heart soar.  It was a principal.  And he wanted to interview me.  Tomorrow.

The interview went well, so well in fact that I found myself waiting on a phone call the next day.  I woke up figuring on a 9:00 AM phone call.  10:00 rolled around.  1:00 rolled around.  2:30 arrived.  No phone call.  My wife gathered out kids and told me that they were going to the library that she couldn’t take me anymore. I paced, and paced, and paced.  4:25 rolled around and she text me, “Anything?”  I responded “No.  I don’t know how much more broken God needs me to be because right now I am shattered.  If I don’t hear back by 4:30 I’ll have my answer”  I hit send noting the time as 4:28.

I was about to slip my phone back in my pocket when it rang in my hand.  I figured it was my wife calling to console me and looked at the screen. It was him.  Oh Lord…I answered.  He greeted me and informed me that he had made a recommendation for the position.  Dead silence.  Recommendation…what did that mean?  Did I have it or not?  He broke the silence, “Congratulations! Welcome aboard! Now I know that I am hitting you with a lot of stuff but…”  I wrote down his directions and all the information that he gave me as my mind reeled.  We said our goodbyes and hung up.

I stared at my phone.  I knew I had to call my wife but could not make my fingers work, besides my blood sugar must have spiked or she forgot to dust because I couldn’t focus for some reason.  I will never forget the sound of her voice, and the hope, dread, anxiety, and concern in it as she said “Hello?”  In a barely audible voice I told her “I got it”  She didn’t hear me and had to ask, “what?”  I managed a little more composure, “Honey I got it!”  We shed tears of relief, and joy together. Since that time my life has been a whirl wind.  I have become a friend, mentor, socialologist, counselor, psychologist, bouncer, and coach.  When I was asked how could you be a teacher the only response that I had was how could I not?

I am finally living out the purpose that God intended me for, I pray everyday that with his help that I will be enough.

Comfort Zone

When I first started dating my wife I made a conscious decision that I would try things that I never would have tried before.  Let me warn you, when you make that sort of conscious decision, you will be put to the test.

We had  been dating for over a year.  Long distance.  I lived north of Nashville, TN and she lived in Winchester, KY.  Three short hours away.  Our dating consisted of talking.  A lot.  Our days started at about the same time.   We’d get our children ready for school or the baby sitter and out the door we’d go.  Each child dropped off at their perspective locations.  And we’d call one another.  We’d talk for an hour on the way to work.  We’d talk for an hour at lunch.  We’d talk for an hour on the drive home.  We’d eat dinner, get the kids down for the night and call.  We saw each other every other weekend.

It was no surprise when the phone rang, the surprise came with what she had to tell me.  She said that she had agreed to be part of the “Murder Mystery Weekend” at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY.  She was to play the part of the Inn Keeper’s wife.  There was a loaded pause in the air as I waited for the next bit of information to pour forth with her next exhale.  “I did say I volunteered us right”. Uh,no, you didn’t.  I closed me eyes and held my breath as she continued.  “I know you don’t like crowds, if I over stepped my bounds I’m sorry.  I was just so excited by the idea of a weekend away together, and it’s free…” and she went on.

As she continued talking I tuned her out.  My gut reaction was to tell her “NO”.  For some reason I asked myself “why not?”  The only thing that I could think of was that it’s outside of my comfort zone.  So would it hurt?  I could still hear her in the background.  I thought about the torch that I had carried for this woman for over 20 years.  I thought of our relationship and how it had progressed.  I thought of our talks of marriage and planning to move her down to Tennessee in just a few short months.  Was this a test?  A trap?  If I said no would she rethink the entire relationship?  I didn’t want to find out.


I came back to reality and realized that I didn’t hear her charming alto voice on the other end, then she said “Honey, are you there?  Did I mess up?  Are we ok?”  Before I knew it I heard a voice saying “No you didn’t, yes we are, and yes we can do it”  Yes, who said yes?  Me?  Yes, me.  Mr. Conservative who does not like crowds, whose military experience has him fading into the shadows and assessing every individual and situation told a 5′-1″ and a little bit blonde “yes”.  To say that she was thrilled would be an understatement.

It was one of the most challenging things that I have ever done.  We were in costume and character whenever we were in public.  The fun was that the only script that we had were the scenes which took place at four meals, the rest we were free to add lib.  We had the poor attendees so confused that they did not know which way was up.

At the first breakfast scene I found that cowboy boots, stone floors, and butter balls do not mix well.  It was hilarious.  One character, “The Professor” was to die of poisoning during the meal and I was tush to his table, kneel down grab his wrist and exclaim “He’s dead!”  All was going as planned.  The Professor keeled over as per the script.  I ran from the door of the entrance to the dining area towards the murder scene.  Suddenly I realized that I was no longer running but was sliding and looking up at the ceiling.  I was headed right towards the back of the chair of one of the lady attendees.

I am 6′-0″ and at the time weighted somewhere around 245.  Not huge, but not small either.  All I could picture was chair shattering into pieces the lady flying into the air and me sliding all the way under the table.  Luckily none of the above happened.  My slide started to slow just before I hit the chair.  I came to a complete halt.  Rolled over, scrambled to the “convulsing corpse” The poor professor had witnessed the entire scene and could not help but belly laugh.  I managed to grab his wrist and pronounced him dead before, or so I thought, anyone was the wiser.  I could barely contain myself when the man at the other end of the table that I had hit stood up and in one of the best umpire voices that I have ever heard, complete with hand motions, loudly pronounced me “SAFE!”

I had fun.  I found out that saying yes to something that you normally wouldn’t do is not the end of the world, in fact it can be rather enjoyable.  It was a test, I passed, and it changed the way that she looked at me.  I learned that she will keep me young.   

Nonsense can be fun.  

“A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men”


Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Gifts.  Calling of God.  Irrevocable.  Sounds ominous doesn’t it?  Almost like a draft card.

But why do we always view the calling of God as ominous.  Maybe you don’t, but I did.  People always spoke with reverence when they made statements like, “he got the call”, “he was called by God”, or “God put a calling on his life”  It always sounded so…sacrificial.  Like a lamb to the slaughter.

It’s difficult to answer God when you have that type of view about his work.  I would know.  I ran from his calling when I was 19.  I did everything as far away from the plan that he had for my life as I possibly could.  He even put a group of men in my path that offered to pay for my college.  I joined the Army instead.  Through a very twisted path God still found a way to get me into a ministry.

So down this twisted path we will go.  In my first post I talked about what it took for me to become interested in hunting and latter about how I have become enthralled with bow hunting.  I wanted to learn more about all of this and soon discovered a fantastic website.  The friendliest camp fire on the internet has a great forum and some of the most God fearing friendly people I have ever “met”.  As I studied the site I began to learn about hunters, hunting, deer, and honest male fellowship (remember my post on becoming a man?).  The site isn’t perfect but I have seen some fantastic things happen from there and I’d like to share a few.

One of the members had to give up his beloved compound bow because open heart surgery wouldn’t allow him to use it anymore.  He traded that in (and in his eyes down) to a crossbow.  But even that became difficult for him to use.  The guys on the website pitched in and bought him a battery powered crossbow cocker.  There was enough left over that they put it on gift cards and mailed it to him.

Another member has been wheelchair bound since he was 18 (or so).  For the last year he’d been suffering with  a blood clot and bed ridden for 22 of a 24 hour day.  He was down about not being able to finish a project that he had started and posted pictures of it.  This guy was going to build a deck even though he’s in a wheelchair.  Before you know it TNDeer had organized a work bee.  Close to a dozen people showed up to help, some knew one another, most did not.  They did this out of the kindness of their hearts.  Knowing that these fine folks would not take payment his mother insisted on cooking for them.  I was not able to attend though I wanted to, but from the pictures and the tales told the lady put out quite a spread.

Most recently one of our members, a disabled veteran, passed away unexpectedly.  His son made a post informing us of his passing.  His wife then came on and asked if anyone could help her price his hunting items as money would soon become tight and she needed to raise money.  Various members got together and one was actually close enough to go help her sort items out and price them for her.  Some went to friends of the family, some sold on the site, but a fair price was paid and no one haggled.  Those who were not able to buy decided to donate.  The last time I checked the widow had be given nearly $3,000.00 by complete strangers.  No, I have that wrong.  Not complete strangers, just family she’s never met.

As much as all of these event s touched me there was another that touched me more.  My wife Mitzi and I have been working with the youth in our area for quite some time.  The ministry started at about the same time I started becoming interested in deer hunting.  I bought my bow and the young men in my group started asking questions.  Then a young man by the name of Chase approached me with a request.  He’d lost his dad tragically a year before and one of the only things that he had left was an old broken down compound bow.  This thing was busted.

I had an idea and approached  TNDeer with the request of used hunting items.  I received far more than I bargained for.  The next thing I know I am being asked clothes sizes, boot sizes, does he have arrows, what about a release, and on and on it went.  I received many of the items I was asked about and a couple of the guys got together and sent a climber tree stand.  I never thought that I would be the recipient of anything like that,  But it wasn’t over.

Warning – Andrew and Matthew I’m going to out you on this one.

A great guy by the name of Andrew had helped me with my first bow, getting it tuned, and set up as well as you can set up a 26 year old Browning Magnum Plus.  I asked him about getting Chase’s bow setup and he said sure bring it on down.  I’ll abbreviate the story a lot here.  We worked on the bow and soon discovered that the bottom cam was bent beyond repair.   We took the bow home and stepped back to punt.  Andrew and I talked, batted a few ideas around, and he involved another TNDeer member, Matthew Eddie of Energy Wave Bow Strings (shameless free plug) to help.  They asked me to bring the bow down and leave it, so I did and didn’t think much more about it.

A few weeks later Andrew calls me up and tells me to bring Chase down because his bow was ready.  What we found when we showed up was more than either of us had expected.  The two gentlemen had scrounged up a new sight, a dozen new arrows, field tips, cams off of a Matthews Single Cam, a whisker biscuit, and Matthew had added new cables and bow string.  The bow was as new as it could possibly be made.  I don’t even want to venture a guess towards a dollar amount, or the amount of labor they put into that bow, but I will forever be grateful.  Chase was floored, I had experienced the milk of human kindness before, he had not.  He really got a dose, and he still hasn’t recovered.  I haven’t either.

Not long after all of this went down I had another boy, Darrell, show up on my door step.  I didn’t have a bow for him, but it didn’t take long for one to pop up.  One of the guys on the website posted that he had a bow for a kid.  I had a kid no bow.  We connected and were able to put a bow in Darrell’s hands and with Andrew’s help have him shooting in very short order.

God also showed me in other ways that this is a ministry that he has a hand on and has enabled me to help others as well.  I’m always scouring Craigslist for bows and archery equipment.  A PSE Nova popped up for $60.00, yep $60.00.  I looked at other PSE Nova’s listed and they were going from $150.00 to $200.00.  I contacted the guy and we chatted, he asked what I was going to do with the bow so I told him about my youth archery ministry.  When we got to his house he had the bow, a sight, rest, and quiver for the bow.  He also donated some boots, hats, gloves, and a jacket.  As I was getting ready to leave he asked if I was interested in a climber stand.  I didn’t think it was in my price range but agreed to look.  I walked away with a used Hunter’s Choice climber for $15.00.  I’m still shaking my head over that one.

So now I have a bow and no boy.  That didn’t take long to fix either.  My friend Andrew posted on our website that he had taken a boy under his wing.  The young man lost his father unexpectedly and was growing up in an estrogen riddled house.  Andrew was determined to get the boy as good a dose of testosterone as possible.  As soon as I saw his post I knew who the bow was for.

And the stories go on and on.  And things are still happening.  God called me to a ministry 24 years ago and I ran.  When I finally got tired of running He still had a ministry for me, involving an activity I love helping young boys become young men.


Go figure.

The Birth of the Savior….My take

Once again I must preface what I am going to say is of my own ideas discoveries and thoughts.  They do not reflect any doctrine or denomination and are completely my own.

I sat in church a few years ago and for the first time in many years my younger brother sat beside me.  He wasn’t totally comfortable but he was there.  My mom sat beside us beaming with pride.

As the service waned on and I do mean that time passed very slowly, we both became distractedly uncomfortable.  When the final hymn was announced we stood and turned to the correct page.  It took just a moment for him to lean over to me and say, “I know I need church or something, but tell me how this pertains to me?”  I looked to see him pointing at the date the hymn was written.  1699.  I didn’t know what to say.

So I begin to think.  What about all of this is pertinent to me?  In order to come to my answer I had to separate denominational religion and God.  My thoughts and study turned to the birth of Christ.  Here’s how the story breaks down:

  1. The gospel of Luke Chapter 1:26-38 tells of how an Mary came to be the mother of the Savior.
  2. Matthew Chapter 1:18-25 tells how Joseph, not wanting to disgrace Mary, decided to put her quietly away when according to Hebrew law he could have had her stoned to death.  He only changed his mind when he was visited by an Angel who told him to not be concerned about taking Mary as his wife and that she would be the mother of the Messiah.  And he fulfilled prophecy by keeping her a virgin.
  3. Into all this mix let’s throw the government.  Luke 2:1-3 tells the portion of the story of how Caesar Augustus required that a census of everyone of everyone on the face of the earth.  Everyone in his own city.  That means that Joseph had to pack up a very pregnant Mary and take her to Bethlehem.

So how is all of this pertinent to us today? Have you ever really thought about it?   Let’s break it down into terms that perhaps make it a little more clear.

Mary gets pregnant by the Spirit.  Joseph chooses not to believe her and rejects her.  God tells Joseph to marry her anyway.  So now we have Joseph who first rejects his bride-to-be then turns around and says yes the child is mine, instantly becoming a liar.    He does marry her but in order for prophecy to be fulfilled does not consummate the marriage.  Can you imagine the first view of your wife naked being in the doctor’s “catch” position?  Then Joseph gets a letter from the Government saying “go to the city of your ancestors so that we can count you and your household”.  Can you see the joy in this relationship so far?

So the happy caravan headed to Bethlehem..was it really so happy?  A rejected bride, a child conceived out of wedlock, and a disgraced husband on an 80 mile road trip.  Sounds like a load of fun doesn’t it?

How is this pertinent to us today?  I believe with all my heart that his story was part of God’s grand design.  In the eyes of man Jesus was conceived outside of marriage.  His father was a liar.  He rejected Mary then married her anyway.  They were poor.  Marry was later a widow (assumption).  He had half-brothers.  He worked with his hands.  He came from the most wicked city in Israel. Folks, Jesus came to this earth to be me and you.  To experience the things that we did.  He was not born of privilege.  No silver spoon for the King of the Universe.  He experienced things that the lowest of the low experienced.  He became us.  All of us.

To me that is exactly how Christ is pertinent to us today.


I’m not sure when I started remembering Christmas, but there are definite memories from different points in my life.  All of them center around my family, and time spent with them.  The one gift that I remember most is the time I was able to spend with them.

The first Christmas that I really remember was probably 1974, or maybe 1975.  We lived in Olin, NC in a big ramshackle farm house that was literally one mile from the black top.  The outhouse still stood when we lived there.  It had a front porch and a side porch.  No one ever used the front door but came through the back door into a breeze way that lead into the kitchen.  It was always warm in there and always smelled of food.

My grandma Chaffee, who lived in Portland, TN would come and visit us twice a year.   The time of year never mattered, whenever she came she brought Christmas with her.  That year when she arrived we didn’t yet have a Christmas Tree so she and my mother decided that they would pack all three of the boys into the car, grab dad’s bow saw, and go get one.  We didn’t have to go far.

What occurred next was the awfullest mess you have ever seen.  Two women trying to cut down a little cedar tree with a tool they knew little about compounded by three little boys doing their best to help.  They had forgotten to bring any rope and grandma was not about to put the tree in her new car, so they threw it on top.  I don’t know how many times we had to stop and put that tree on top of the car, but what I do remember was the laughter.  Mom and grandma laughed like school girls all the way home.

They wrestled that tree in to the house, got it stood up and the lights on before dad got home.  I remember that it had snowed mightily the remainder of the day.     He walked in looked at the tree then at mom and grandma and said “Let’s roll it in the snow!”  Before they could say a word he grabbed the tree, lights and all, and out the front door he went.  I remember watching him from the window rolling that tree over and over getting it covered.  I’ll never forget decorating that tree.  It was the most beautiful tree I ever remember having.

One of my other favorite memories was watching my dad and uncles come in from hunting together on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.  They smelled of the cold, tobacco, the great outdoors, and gunpowder.  I remember my older cousins being invited to go hunting with the men as they got older.  It was a right of passage and I greatly anticipated my invitation.

It was an invitation that never came.   By the time I was 8 my family moved away and dad stopped hunting.  Things happened and I lost interest in hunting, but as time passed I started thinking about it again.  It became a desire to re-establish that tradition.

This Thanksgiving I was afforded the opportunity to go hunting with my younger brother Kelly.  It is a tradition that we will continue and as our own sons grow older we will invite them to go with us, carrying on a long standing family tradition.

I guess that’s what I cherish the most about Christmas, spending time with my family.

God bless you all.

Merry Christmas.