Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grace Academy

I have accomplished something I never thought I could do. I have taught three Bible classes in a Christian school for nine months. Another new chapter in the life and ministry of Arlyn Ubben.
I was thinking that in the last few years, I have nearly completed my work for my doctorate, I have learned about real estate and have shown that I can do that work, I have tackled the field of teaching with good success and I have continued to develop my preaching through pulpit supply opportunities. I guess this " old dog" is still learning a few new tricks.
I have taught ninth graders about the Bible: it's origin, inspiration, transmission, translation, preservation, etc. Then we spent three quarters studying how to study the Bible. We used the text Living By The Book by Hendricks, an excellent book for college students and seminary level readers, but a bit much for the ninth grade. I developed worksheets for the students to follow which gave them much success in working through the technical material. I then walked the students through Habakkuk, Daniel 1 and 2, Romans 12: 1-2; and James 1 and 2. We had a great time as most of these students had never sat down and studied the Bible on their own for more than a few minutes before this class began.

The second class was a class on doctrine, taught to 10th grade students. We covered the doctrines of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan, Demons, Angels, Heaven, Man, Sin and Salvation. This was a great class and we got to go fairly deep in some of these doctrines. I had one Korean girl (exchange student) come to Christ this year as a result of the exposure to the gospel in school.

The third class was a study of Acts, focused on the doctrine of the church and missions. We have just spent a whole quarter on missions and the students have had their eyes opened. What a sheltered group we have, who have no concept of what God is doing throughout the rest of the world in evangelization. I wove in the doctrine of the church throughout this study. We did biographical studies on an apostle, an early church pastor, and a missionary throughout the year. One of the girls in the class became a Christian in November. She is an exchange student from Taiwan.

These classes have developed within me a hunger to continue teaching in depth. My church instruction has always lacked accountability and structure because of the nature of the pulpit and the Sunday school class. You cannot give tests on sermons. I have learned how to hold students accountable. Now, I would like to have an opportunity in the local church to develop some kind of accountability so that we can better promote James 1:22 - be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

It has been a great year. I have had some positive student and parent feedback.

One great story. I have had a 9th grader who is an interesting fellow. He is eager to do his work and participate in class. I do not think that he is great in his academic career - I do not know his grade average. All year long he has showed an eagerness in class and has worked his hardest. I gave a rather lengthy final exam, and when I was grading it the other night, I discovered that he missed only one question on the whole thing - and he quoted his Scripture verses perfectly - and earned the highest grade in the class. I was so excited for him. Today I called and talked to his mom, to tell her what her son had accomplished. She was glad that he was able to finish well and there were tears in her voice as she was so pleased to hear of his work. It is moments like this that make teaching a thrill - especially when we get to peak in and see a few of the results in our lifetime.
Will I teach again? I am talking with the school about a contract for the fall, but I am also talking with several churches about pastoral ministry, so the Lord will direct my steps as He has in the past to the exact place where he wants me. I have absolutely loved teaching; I miss preaching. Margaret is hoping to be able to teach again next year, and so we wait on the Lord to put these desires of our heart together in a way that glorifies Him.

Hunting and Ethics

First posted in 2006 under another blog title.

Hunting and Ethics

I was in for a hunting experience that I had desired for years. I was going to hunt elk with my dad. When I was a boy, dad and I would go on occasional hunts, usually for pheasant. I remember making the trip from Colorado Springs to eastern Colorado to hunt. Early morning, get out of bed, too tired to eat, drive a long way in the car, feel “travel woozy”, get to the hunting area and hope that by some chance with no dog you would be able to bag a bird or two. In those days, I never carried a shotgun, just a BB gun. It was fun to go with the men and watch them shoot. Especially fun was the day Mr. Pierce got all excited when a rooster pheasant flushed from under his feet. He pointed and shot - both barrels of that double-barreled 12 gauge went off at once- and the pheasant felt no pain. With half of its feathers left and weighing several ounces more with all of the shot it carried, that pheasant fell like a ton of bricks. Picking the shot out of the meat took the joy out of eating it.

On my thirteenth birthday, we went deer hunting with the Seanor family. I remember it well since it was the first time that I got to shoot a rifle. Of course it was a 30.06. As a young teen made up mostly of bone and skin, I was not prepared to receive the recoil effect of that 30-caliber bullet. My shoulder was sore the entire day and I could not even enjoy the thrill of the hunt. We bagged no deer or I would be writing about that rather than the sore shoulder.

This hunt was to be different. I was no longer a lanky 13-year-old teen along for the thrill of the hunt. I was 43 and dad was 70. Dad had two partners on the trip, Sam and Earl, both over 70 years of age (and both of whom were with us on the previous mentioned pheasant trip). I had with me my son Tim who was 16 at the time. I had lived in Oregon for 20 years before moving back to my boyhood home of Colorado Springs. During my years in Oregon, I had learned to hunt. I learned to hunt blacktail deer, elk, pheasant, quail, grouse, duck and goose. I had been successful in each of these game categories, although I did not consider myself expert in the field of hunting. I knew that of all the hunting, I enjoyed deer and elk the best. I was looking forward to my first Colorado hunt.

As is so often the case, the hunting grass is always greener on the other side of the fence . . . or state line. I had heard of Colorado big game hunting. I had heard of the success my dad and his buddies enjoyed in the place we were going. I had hoped that one year I would get to go along on this much-fabled excursion. I was ready to go!In Colorado, one can hunt for several species at the same time. In our party of 5 we had 3 tags for deer, one doe and two bucks, and five tags for elk, two cows and three bulls. It was a situation where we were looking forward to filling many tags and having great success. Before the hunt, we went over the rule: Everyone shoots and fills his own tag and not the tag of another. Besides being the law, it is a good hunting ethic.Elk hunting is a team sport. Everyone in the party is needed to find the elk and to pack it out when it is down. Because of this, many hunters apply the party rule to the killing of elk.

The scene goes like this: if one man sees a bull and two cows together and knows that there are tags in the party for all of those animals, he will try to shoot as many as he can even though his tag will be only for one animal. Then the whole party can go down and field dress the animals and pack them back to camp. Even though one person has done the shooting, everyone gets to benefit in the processing and possession of game. This process seems logical, but the state of Colorado, and most other states, enacted a law that prohibits this type of hunting activity. An ethical dilemma exists. Should the hunting party go by the knowledge of the law or by the inspection of the law? We knew that where we were back in the wilderness, no law enforcement officer was expected because of the remote location. We agreed to the rule, but I suspected an upcoming test in the hunt.

We arrived the day before the season opened. The first task was to set up the tent – the 16-foot army tent. Heavy canvass. Oil sealed canvass. Stinky canvass. Tent up, cots set, wood stove placed, tent organized and we were ready. We were hunting near Gunnison. We were camped within a mile of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness at an elevation of 10,000 feet. Over the previous 5 to 10 years, my dad and his buddies had become acquainted with this area for hunting and had done very well there. The elk they hunted were migratory. When the snows fell, the elk would cross a mountain range from South Park and come down to the Gunnison area for the winter. The terrain was like nothing I had ever hunted before. There were stands of quakies, aspen trees, thick as hair on a hog’s back. The trees were not very big in circumference, but numerous in bunches. Looking through a stand of these trees was difficult if not impossible, and walking through them was an experience. It is impossible to walk quietly through a stand of trees when the ground is covered with brittle and crackling leaves. Interspersed with the quakies were patches of “black timber”. These stands of pines and firs looked black. Hunting in these patches was better than in the quakies because there were lanes of vision that enabled the hunter to see if anything was moving.

Above these stands of timber were areas barren of trees. Timberline in that area is about 12,500 feet, and there was plenty of mountain above that. We were dependent on snow to drive the elk into our hunting area. We were hunting the third season in early November, so our chances of the snow were good. After camp was set up, we decided to take a walk into the wilderness so that I could get familiar with the lay of the land. The afternoon was wearing on and yet the day was bright and crisp. We had old snow on the ground in the trees, but the meadows were snow free. We knew that elk in the area would be “locals” that lived in these woods the year round. As we walked, I kept seeing deer tracks in the snow, but no elk tracks. This was curious to me because the experts told me that deer were rare in the wilderness area.

To find the deer, our party usually went south toward the sagebrush about a mile away. I could buy a buck tag if I wanted, but not to expect to fill it since bucks were scarce in this region. In our search, I noticed strips of black timber surrounded by great groves of quakies. Upon investigation, I found small streams flowing through these timber strips and lots of cover around. From my hunting experiences in Oregon, I knew that this had to be a great place for deer. However, I did not know if blacktail deer acted the same as Colorado mulies. I decided to walk through several of these timber strips. When I did, I found deer tracks along the edges and along the uphill portion of the timber. I remember thinking, “I’m here in the morning at first light for deer.”

The next morning we were up early and getting ready for the day. We started with a 4 star breakfast for sure. Scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, coffee or hot chocolate, bread and jam filled us up and got us in the right mood for the hunt. I had a short time in reading the Bible and prayer before going out, a habit I have formed over the years and really enjoy as I go into the woods. We developed a strategy for the day and for rendezvous. If one person got an animal, we would have fried liver and onions for dinner. I was going to be the one that provided dinner for that evening, I hoped. Our walk into the wilderness began before the first light of day. The sky was just starting to brighten in the east and the stars and planets of the night were shining brightly. The air was crisp – with a temperature of about 15 degrees. The weather was especially mild and we expected temperatures in the high 30’s by the afternoon. It was going to be a great day!

My dad and his buddies had a game plan all worked out. They would hunt together as they always had – separating and walking alone although in the same area. They talked carefully about the “benches”, the draws and hills around there as if they had lived there for years. They knew where they were, they knew the trails and ridges and creeks and they were at home. After one has hunted the same area for several years, he gets familiar and acquainted like an old friend. He is drawn to the old places like with a magnet. The hills and valleys become a welcome place. Each year they provide an enthusiastic greeting. After a year of not seeing each other, it is good to spend time together again. There is a settled feeling that only outdoorsmen are able to experience and express. I knew their feeling, the draw. I had seen them the year before when they returned from hunting vowing never to go back again because it was too long and too hard and too difficult. And then the hunting regulations come out and the pain is forgotten and the altitude and the weakness of the knees and heart is put aside and the memory of the experience and the call of the hills comes back and the plans are laid for the next hunt.

One thing that I want the reader to understand: the hunt is very little about killing wild game. It is comradeship with one’s hunting buddies, a oneness with God’s creation, an experience of walking with God in the outdoors, of having an intimate fellowship and experience with Him, of being led by God’s hand and of enjoying a part of life that many others do not understand.It involves clearing out the cobwebs from the mind after a year of business and city activity. Most hunters of big game are not highly successful. If success were the draw, hunting would probably fade away. The draw is a greater call and a greater impulse of life. There is value to being in the woods. Only in a hunting situation are one’s senses called on to look, to see, to hear and to feel to the intensity of the hunt. There is a heightened awareness that comes from intently looking for wild game and seeking to understand the tactics and habits of the quarry. There is a lot of study of animal biology that goes into hunting. There is the mastery of the terrain. The ability to be equipped and to survive in an area where man was not intended to live is a challenge. Taking a piece of paper with topographical lines and a compass and plotting a course and returning produces a confidence that is exhilarating. After a few years, that compass is built in to one’s senses and becomes a part of the equipment rather than a pocket piece. There is a heightened spirituality as one is in a place absent from the regular noise of life and able to listen and hear the voice of God in a new and intense way. The hunt is about the process, not about the end or the kill.

My son Tim and I split off from the rest of the group and headed to the black timber strips of the night before. We chose a point of entry and began to walk up hill within sight of each other. Our walk was slow and deliberate – lots of standing and looking between steps – “still hunting” they call it. The breeze was a crosswind that went from right to left. With that breeze, we were able to keep our eyes ahead and to the right for game that might be in the woods. We were in the quakies walking parallel to the timber strips. The snow in the trees made walking noisy. Each step was a crunch in the frozen blanket. After about 10 slow steps, I would stop and look. Each move and step was calculated. Turning my head slowly so as not to have much movement, I analyzed each lane of visibility between trees. Tim was doing the same thing up on the side of the ridge. He had been hunting with me for years, tagging along since he was 9. He had learned some great lessons in the woods and is a lover of the outdoors as I am. About 30 minutes after daylight, I saw movement on a trail up ahead.

I got into shooting position and froze. I watched as two does walked along, unconscious of our presence. They were moving quickly, probably spooked by other hunters. I was confident that we were in a good place. I kept watch over that area for some time and finally began to move again. It was not long before I crossed several trails in the snow. I realized that deer had been using this slope quite a lot in the last few days. I felt we were in a hotspot for deer. About 30 minutes later, I heard a noise off to the right. I looked and saw a deer coming toward me, barely visible through the quakies. As I looked for the head, I saw that it was a buck. My heart began to pound and I was trying to control my emotions. I waited as he walked toward me, hoping for a good shot through the thick trees. When he got 75 yards from me, he came into a clear spot and stopped to look around, his body quartered to me from left to right. I filled my scope with hair as I shot for the heart. The gun roared. I expected the buck to fall, but he turned and ran about 25 yards and stopped again. This time a neck shot put him down. My heart was racing. I had shot my first mule deer.

It wasn’t supposed to happen here. I called for Tim and he came running and joined me. We walked to the deer. He had run a few yards and went down in a heap. I could not believe my eyes. I had been used to smaller blacktail bucks and here I had a big mule deer down. He had a three-point rack, well balanced and proportional. The shot was a good one and had killed him right away and not ruined any meat. What had happened to the first shot? Upon examination of the body, I could see a wound, but it looked like a horn mark from another deer, not a bullet hole.

Tim and I marveled over the animal for a while. It takes me some moments to process the idea of having killed a magnificent animal. In life, the deer is majestic and beautiful. In death, a buck is awesome and I consider it a great gift. I hope I never lose that feeling. I field dressed the buck while Tim walked to a nearby shelf and sat, waiting to see if another animal might come by. In just a few minutes, we had a funny experience. A spike bull elk ran into the clearing between Tim and me. Since we were in an area where bulls had to have 3 antler points or more, he was safe from harm, but boy was he confused. He ran around in circles three times while we just stood and watched. Finally, he decided that this was not the place to be and ran off kicking up a great noise and flying branches.

It took a while to get this deer back to camp and hung in the tree for skinning. We were glad I shot it early in the day. While skinning the deer, my knife hit a hard object. It was the first slug that I shot, just under the skin and intact. The bullet had not expanded. It had lodged about 12 inches from the entry mark that I had noticed in the woods, but had traveled between the skin and the body before stopping. How a .30 caliber slug would do that and create no damage at all to the animal, I have no idea.

That night, we had liver and onions. We were grateful for the success of the hunt. Sam had shot a smaller buck and brought it in to camp late that evening, so we had two tags filled the first day, but no elk. In fact, Tim and I were the only ones to see an elk that day.Our elkless days were to continue the rest of the week. We heard very few shots during the day, indicating that nearby hunters were not having success either. We kept seeing deer in abundance, but no elk.

The last day of the trip, we decided to go to an area where I had seen numerous deer and see if Dad could get his doe. All five of us went together. Those of us who did not have doe tags would try to drive something to Dad and see if he could shoot it. We entered the woods and I began to see many tracks. After about 30 minutes of slow walking, I heard a noise ahead. I froze. There was a big doe staring at me through the aspen. I raised my rifle and looked at her through the scope. It was an easy shot. I could take her in the head and we could have Dad tag her. Then I began to have thoughts that stayed my finger. “You have Tim with you on this hunt. If you kill this deer, you will teach him by example that he does not need to abide by the rules. Is that what you want?” Another thought: “You can walk out of these woods with a doe and fill your Dad’s tag, or you can walk out of here with your integrity, but you can’t do both.”

I lowered my rifle and stared at the deer until it walked off. As quickly as I could I went and found my Dad and brought him to the spot to see if he could find the doe. We never found her and the tag went unfilled.On the way back to camp, we were telling stories of what we had seen. I heard the question, “Why didn’t you shoot?” It was not a question that expected an answer as much as it was intended to teach a lesson. It was a question that the asker had to deal with once in his life as well. My answer was, “I did not have permission to kill the doe.” I was never at peace as much as I was with that answer. I could have brought the doe in and everyone would have been glad for the extra animal. However, the price I would have had to pay would have been too great.

The Bible says: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” Galatians 6:6-7 (NKJV) What a joy it was to reap the pleasures of everlasting life in my spirit rather than the corruption of the flesh through my rifle. I have faced more challenges in my integrity with a rifle in my hand than at any other time in my life. Integrity that takes a lifetime to build, but only a moment to give up. If surrendered, it is hard, sometimes impossible, to gain back. Knowing that one has faced a tough decision and has chosen the route of integrity is a great feeling. It rivals, even surpasses the joy of the hunt. It is not for the glory of the man, for there is no glory. The glory is for the Lord who changes the man and makes him a person that can consistently decide to do the deeds of integrity.

Perhaps a Spirit-filled hunter is a contradiction in terms in the minds of many. I would not want to be any other kind. I know that a man can pursue any avenue of life that does not contradict the Scripture and bring glory to God. I want to be a hunter that brings glory to God because I let Him work in me in all areas and avenues of life. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)