Monday, November 3, 2014

Battling for the Legacy of the Hunt and Top Ten Tools

"I don't know exactly how to say it but this weekend changed me. I feel like I can do bigger things. I feel like I can do hard things. The time in the deer stand talking, having someone listen to me. It was amazing." The words of a young lady on the drive home from her first deer hunt. I was not surprised how much it impacted her,  I had seen it many times before. I live for those moments and it always draws me in to a place of gratitude and joy. A life changed, a kid empowered.

In many areas the tradition of hunting, the traditions of the woods, the deer camp are struggling to stay alive. The average age of the hunter in America is now 35 plus with most over the age of 45. The numbers of hunters has been declining heavily since its peak in 1985 according to a study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and the U.S. Sportsmen s Alliance (USSA).

There are some solid trends that should concern anyone who enjoys hunting. Did you know there are state and local laws that restrict  the age for youth big game hunting? Yes, laws that restrict when you think your kid is ready to hunt or not. Statistically the hunter that begins between the ages of 7 - 15 is more likely to continue the tradition into their adult life.

But it is not just the hunting. Kids today are not going outside. The average kid today spends 40 minutes a week outside. They spend an unbelievable 70 hours a week looking at a screen (electronics).  Sure we can yell at our kids to turn the TV off. We can refuse to give them a phone or take it away. We can refuse to allow video games in the home but that rarely solves the problem.

For most of the kids today electronics, not bicycles, are cultural. Their parents are both working and they don't look to the woods for an escape or adventure, it's all online. They are given computers at school, not books, they watch 100 plus television channels, Youtube and a dozen programs are in the palm of their hand and full of content that draws them in. Solutions are instantaneous, problems are solved in 30 minutes or less. Of course their attention span is short, their ability to sit, be still and quiet is all but gone.

Every hunter should be concerned. Every outdoors man or woman should be. If we as a group, a population, a family, do not each make an effort to help turn the tide we will be pushed out by the anti-hunting organizations that march forward with passion and money.

Training outdoor mentors is the key here. One time hunts can have a big impact on a new hunter but ultimately the excitement fades and old habits return without regular exposure. Your state wildlife department, the big manufacturers, the outdoor conservation groups do not have the resources nor the ability to assign their employees or volunteers mentoring responsibilities. A mentor has to come forward because they have a heart for the mission. They have to buy in and commit.

The new hunter, the youth hunter needs to experience the adventure in a safe and enjoyable way. If not done correctly it can turn them away from the sport for a lifetime. Here are some of the top lessons to use should you choose to step up and mentor a kid into the outdoors.

1)      We never hunt Bambi. Bambi is a cartoon character. We hunt doe, bucks, spikes or whatever the deer is you are targeting. We don’t joke about it, we don’t feed into it and as a matter of fact we correct them and even ask them to refrain from those type comments.

2)      We assure all new hunters that we eat what we kill and if they are not going to eat the harvest, then they should just stick with target shooting. We have heard it many times that deer meat or wild game does not taste good. I don’t know if they are just repeating the comments they heard from an adult or if they actually had some poorly prepared game, but regardless, no eat, no hunt. It is a rare day they don’t like a good deer spaghetti, smoked sausage or hamburger I cook them when they are hungry.

3)      Never, ever put a large caliber rifle up to a kids arm as their first experience with a firearm. It’s not funny nor manly and can scare a kid from pulling the trigger for years. I know, I did it. Scope a .22 or .17 caliber rifle and give them a big ole box of shells. Let them learn to use the scope and action of the gun. Let them shoot to their heart's desire. Find a rifle that fits the kid.

I would also, in most cases, not take them to an indoor range. The reverberation can be brutal from a large caliber rifle or pistol in the stall next to you. Eye and really good ear protection is also very important.

4)      The right caliber matters. Few deer won’t go down with a .223 or .243. I would go as high as a .270 in some cases but smaller is better.

5)      They understand how a scope works and have had a blast shooting the smaller caliber and now, when the deer walks out, slide the .223 or .243 into place. They may ask if it will kick and you will answer no not really or truthfully, no not really. Once they are on target with their first deer the adrenaline is pumping. For the most part fear or discomfort that may come from pulling the trigger is not present.

6)      The deer is down. Be ready to back them up if needed. You can have a rifle at the ready or be ready to have them take another shot. It is really important that the first kill is done well, or the perception is that all is going well. If required you may need to go in advance of their looking for the deer in case it has not fully expired. Don’t blow it apart or slash its neck. Clean, calm, intentional. Complete the harvest with a small caliber pistol if needed. Then go back to the stand and invite the kid to come looking. Have them follow the blood trail. It’s a learning process so use it as a time of teaching.

7)      Have a talk over the harvested animal once it has been found. Relive the hunt, the moments. Assure them they did well for the first hunt, even if a bit of a struggle. Good affirmations of their skills, whether it was sitting still, shooting strait or tracking. Point out the good then work together, maybe even have them drag the deer. They need to understand the whole process and that after the shot is where the work begins. This helps them make the decision in the future if they want to pull the trigger and then do all the work required after. Good stuff.

8)      Pictures. Take them in the field if at all possible. Clean, blood free images are best. They can use them on social media, show them to friends, etc. The picture you take that goes to who knows where can be a reflection on all hunters. Take your time, keep it clean and make sure they are smiling! No pictures of gutting or processing first kill. Again, it is about an image a lot of people may see. Caution.

9)      Have them participate in the gutting, skinning or preparing for the meat market. Don’t send them off to play or do something else. No matter the ewes or yuks, have them stay, give them a knife and have them help with certain parts. This, again, is crucial learning element.

10)   Relive the experience with them as many times as they like. Curve the memory to include the best things the kid did and how proud and happy you are they did it. If there were some missteps, talk around them if possible. This is a huge deal for kids of every age.

No video or cell phone. You or them. This is a time for them to hear, see, smell and be with creation. Break off and resist the desire to watch YouTube videos while sitting and waiting. It may be really hard but it is really powerful.

The last things I would mention are follow all game laws. Know the season and what is legal and not legal. Tolerate nothing less. Take a bunch of snacks for you to enjoy together. Take waters or juice to make sure they don’t get thirsty. The littler ones may get a bit bored waiting. If they are not comfortable with the shot, don’t want to take the shot, then okay pass. Give them the chance to make the right choice and if they just can’t do it then they just don’t do it.

It is said the kids today will never hear  the words, "go outside and come back when the street lights come on." They will never run in the woods behind their house with a .22 and a box of shells for the day. They will never go duck hunting or deer hunting before school then rush to school with feathers flying everywhere or blood dripping from the tail gate. They won't hang their deer rifle or shot gun in the rack behind the driver's seat in the back window of their old pickup waiting for school to get out so they can return to the field.

Your time mentoring in the outdoors may be one of the most important opportunities you will have in your lifetime. Make it count, today for tomorrow.


TJ Greaney

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

War Zones and Family Gatherings

War Zones are treacherous places. Countries where a war has been can remain a dangerous place even years later. Take Cambodia, for example. Landmines are everywhere and to this day, some 35 years after their war, undetected landmines and other unexploded ordinances still kill and maim people. Many of those wounded or killed today are people who have always known them to be there, their whole lives.

Wikitravel, in their “war zone safety” pages tell you, “When in an area that is known or suspected to be mined, stay on paved road when possible. If not possible, follow car tracks or well-trod foot paths. Should you, despite your best efforts, find yourself in a mined area, stop. Stay where you are and call for assistance from someone who knows what they are doing. If this is not possible, retrace your exact steps back to safety (this is very dangerous). If you have a long rod (even a pen might work), you may be able to check for mines and escape the area. Insert the rod into the ground at a very shallow angle. Mines will not normally be triggered when they are hit from the side. You need to check an area just big enough for your foot. Keep doing this for every step. It could take hours, even days to get out of the danger area, but you should be alive.”
The US State Department has pages and pages on their web site and are very adamant about the dangers of travelling to a country in the grips of war. You are warned of capture, murder, beatings and worse. Yes, they tell you that if you have to go there, if you absolutely have to, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself. Training for the unexpected, escort services or other organizations already on the ground are all tools and options. Everything tells you to be acutely aware of the area, the situations you are entering, and all of the small details. Be aware. It’s a war zone.
As I prepared for my trip to what could possibly be a war zone this summer, I followed a lot of their recommendations. I did my best to be up-to-date on the governmental leadership in the area. I learned the regional languages and nuances. I packed with the knowledge of the situations, landscape and weather. I also prepared an exit strategy. There are certain things that I felt could be used to extricate myself in case I get into the heat of a battle or in the center of a conflict. Typically you do not have a dog in the fight, you do not explain your opinion or thoughts; it’s just “exit stage left”, and quickly.
The top five recommended responses by the US State Department if you are captured and taken hostage are: 1) Retain a sense of pride but act cooperative, 2) Divulge only information that cannot be used against you, 3) Make every effort to avoid embarrassing the U.S. and the host government, 4) Do not antagonize your interrogator with obstinate behavior, and finally, 5) Concentrate on surviving. If you are to be used as a bargaining tool or to obtain ransom, you will be kept alive.
As I travel to Ohio for the family reunion I already know I am in a dangerous area. This is my wife’s side of the family and I have to be on high alert. She is very sensitive to almost any comment I might have on anything. Yankee jokes or humor is a bomb looking for a place to explode. It took me hours to get out of that landmine field just yesterday.
I am already going, it is by my own free will and I am excited about it. We love her family and getting together after so long will be good. But family together in a small place for several days can be tricky. I intend to use the hostage guidelines provided by the State Department as follows. 1) Pride in being married to my wife will be easy; pride to be a part of her family, not a problem, 2) Talk as little as possible, only when spoken to, maybe, 3) see number 2, and 4) I have cash in my pocket to make sure if I need to “go get ice” or volunteer to purchase any items missed I can do that without hesitation. I will try my best to be cheerful and involved.
When Jesus performed His first miracle, He was at a wedding. John 2:1-11, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then He told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
Jesus was a bit aggravated, but he knew what he should do. Now I am not comparing myself to Jesus, but the Bible is a book of directions, instructions and examples for us to use. He did what He knew needed to happen and the blessings were astonishing to all. Yes, this is just a family reunion, but I am no dummy. I am going to try my best to stay out of a war zone. To not aggravate or distract from the mission at hand. I am going to pray, smile and be the best husband I can be. Let’s Roll!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Best and Worst Twenty-Two Minutes of My Life

There is not a lot you can do in just twenty-two minutes.  It's not long enough to watch a TV show, and you can't drive hardly anywhere, or make it through the checkout stand at a busy grocery. I can get dressed and out the door in that time, but my wife? Not a chance. Most people connecting to their Facebook page, talking on the phone, or checking email go over twenty-two minutes easily. What is twenty-two minutes worth, anyway? The average person worldwide lives about 64.3 years. This would be 33,819,228 minutes; what can possibly come from only twenty-two minutes of that?

Almost 2 years ago, I asked a friend of mine who was coming off cancer treatment if he wanted to take a weekend and go with me fishing, and he said no. He told me how he only had a certain number of Saturdays until his son was 18 (he gave me the exact number), and said that he really did not like to miss any of them. Wow, that really took me off balance. How could someone be so in tune with their life, their time left here? It had to be the reality that came with knowing that he could go at any time, that his cancer could have taken him out of his son’s life. Can a regular person, who does not fear imminent death or a tragic event, come to the same realization?

God spoke to me that day. I realized that one of the things which I considered a hassle, driving my then 14-year-old to school each day, needed to be looked at differently. That as the youngest and only one left at home, my son would in just two years walk out to his own vehicle and drive himself to school. I needed to change my way of experiencing mornings with him. God pressed in on me; I was not sure of what it should look like, but knew that somehow those twenty-two minutes a day had to matter more.

For the next two years I was there to drive him, and then to drive with him when he got his learner’s permit. No matter how far away I went or how late my travels brought me in, I was standing at the front door, ready to roll, in the morning. The first while we would just talk, and then I started reading a daily devotional. It was all good but it never felt just right. Then we found The Knight's Code by Robert Noland, and began to take turns reading it on the way, and talking about what we read. We designated the last stretch of the drive a "prayer road" and prayed each day for a good day and more.

Now, it was not always some pretty, Spirit-filled sanctuary in that truck. Not by a long shot. We took turns being really crap-heads to each other and on the days we were both that way, well, look out. But for the most part I think it made a difference; at least it did to me. We talked about some serious topics and had a few really good moments where I felt God's presence.

A couple weeks ago I found an old Dodge pickup. It was a good deal and fit what our vision and our budget could handle for his first truck. Then, last Tuesday I walked him to the end of the drive and watched as he loaded that old Dodge pickup with his baseball gear, his backpack and his lunch, and then he drove off, alone, to school. I was awash in emotions; still am.

As the days crept by I could not help wonder if there was anything, anything at all, that he took away from our morning commute time together. One day he volunteered to drive me to the store to get some things his mom needed. As we drove along, I noticed he had a towel on the console between the seats and a pack of baby wipes in the slot on his driver's door. Those were things I have always done in my truck, for years. I had to wonder: if he picked up on that, what else did he get? Did he hear the part about keeping God first, keeping a "band of brothers, truth, honor, and respect”?

Now, I am trying to figure out what to do with that time each morning. I used to go to the coffee shop and write, read, and meet folks after I dropped him at school. Now, everything seems off balance. I have started going to the gym a little, which I do not like, and running at the park, which I do like. I replaced my broken bird feeder and filled it. I enjoy sitting on the porch, drinking coffee and watching the birds. But I just don't feel like I know what I am supposed to do. OK, Lord, what's next? I’ve got time… twenty-two minutes, to be exact.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why Do I Do What I Do, Over and Over Again....

I don't remember exactly how old I was, maybe 10 or 11. We had gone somewhere in the neighborhood on foot. But along the way we lit up a smoke. I don't know where it came from, where the matches came from but we had a cigarette and we lit it and started smoking it. That was when things took a turn for the worse and to this day I can put myself right there on the sidewalk, the warm concrete of a summer  day comforting my green face. I got so dizzy, sick, nauseated. Everything was spinning, it was horrible and the only small element of comfort came from laying down right then on the sidewalk.

When I began using chewing tobacco so many years later it was about the same thing. I had been given some free at a trade show and it sat around. One day out of boredom I opened a package and slapped a chunk into my mouth. Ugg, gross, what could anyone ever like about this. Same thing the next day until I was "enjoying" the use of it every day for years.

A couple years ago I went to the doctor for my regular yearly checkup that I have every couple years if I remember. I was in fine health except he suggested I watch my sugar intake. Well you could have just said don't touch that little boy or you will get burned. I have since had a terrible craving for sweets of every kind. What the heck. I am drawn to it like a bug to a light.

So often the things we are drawn to are the things that can wound us or are the most unhealthy for us. Tobacco, sugar, relationships, work, money

Judas was one of Jesus' chosen apostles. There was quite a ruckus when it came to being part of the inner 12, lots of guys wanted in, but he was selected. What an honor. Alas, he became drawn away by riches and fame. He saw the procurement of silver worth more than the relationship he had formed with the other apostles and even more, Jesus. He was hearing the truth, he was witnessing incredible miracles and having life explained to him personally by God's son and he could not keep it together.

All the apostles struggled with believing the things Jesus was teaching them over the three years He was with them. Walking for days right next to Him, sleeping outside under the starts night after night. Yet struggling. How could that possibly be?

I don't fall prey to everything that comes my way that is unhealthy for me. I do have some inner strength. I have discovered that many of the demons I struggle with have more meaning below the surface.

Take the young man I talked with recently who said he always has a set of clothes and other assorted things in his truck. As a boy, his parents divorced and every other week he would be shuffled back and forth from his mom's to his dad's. Inevitably he would forget something and have to do without. Even worse one of his parents would voice a disappointing word that he forgot a needed item. The fear, the wound, carried over to this day, he is 30.

If you study up on Judas just a bit, you see he came from a background where he pilfered a few coins on occasion in his past job. John 12:6, "He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it." He was also the guy in charge of the 12 apostles' money, and he may have been tempted there as well.

So he had a struggle he carried with him, a demon. Was it that he was poor as a child and never wanted to be without a coin in his pocket again. Was he hungry as a child and had made a promise to himself to never subject himself to that again; we may never know. We do know it did not turn out well for him

We all have our struggles, our demons. Call it what you like, call it sin, we all have it. It has been there since Adam and Eve let it in. Forgiveness is only found in the process of Romans 10:9. Does that mean we will never fall back or discover other transgressions, no, not at all

I can count off a list of times I have tried something with a bad outcome or experience and despite the consequences or known danger, did it again, and again. What about the old saying, "if you touch the stove and burn yourself you learn not to touch the stove." My hands are all burned up and I continue to touch the dang flame. Not always in the same place, not always the same stove

Things that once did not bother me now burn when I touch them. Things I once thought I enjoyed are now offensive to me. I don't laugh at all the same things and cringe at ideas I once found appealing. It might be old age, maybe it is lack of brain power, I think it is God working on me.

Good news is, the victories outweigh the losses or failures. The light at the end of the tunnel, the prize, the gift of life today far exceed the negative. I am so glad to be in a relationship with Christ. So glad. I am so excited with all the things He has and continues to do in my life. He strengthens me and loves me and cares for me like I have never experienced and it is what I was looking for my entire life. A family, a place to belong, someone to care for me so deeply that they would take a bullet for me, or give their son to die on the cross for me. Incredible.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hassle Holidays

I  have a great list of things that make me smile every time I think of them. My kids of course, my wife, some friends. There is also a list of things that I have heard or seen that can turn that frown upside down. The list can be added to at any moment, take the comment I heard recently that has me smiling as I write it here. Hassle Holiday.

Now let me set up the scene for you. I am in the office of a dear friend. She is an amazing mom, wife youth leader at our church. She is also a very well-respected attorney and travels the world solving legal problems for people. It is just before Halloween, we are sitting in her office preparing for a very important meeting. I asked what her family would be doing for Halloween. That was when I heard the term "Hassle Holiday" for the very first time. 

"That is a Hassle Holiday and we don't mess with all that trick or treat, candy, costume stuff. We have a family movie night and dinner out," she said in an almost passing manner. The term took a second to sink in, but then it was like the switch was flipped for me. "What do you mean?" I asked. "Yes there are certain holidays that are just a lot of hassle and I don't know that we want to celebrate them. We don't care if others do, but we just have a family tradition of going out to eat and a movie."

I was laughing. I loved it. I love that she was so matter-of-fact about it. That it was a term I had never heard and it was part of her family dialect. I asked her what other holidays are considered Hassle Holidays. "Valentine's Day," she said with her classic smile. "What, you are kidding me," I exclaimed.

"No really. It is just another day and it should be practiced all year not just one day." OK, so I have heard this from a guy once and when he executed the nothing mode on Valentine's Day it did not go well for him at home. I'm not sure how her husband deals with this, but I am sure it is a fine line. It has to be.

So I got to thinking about other possible Hassle Holidays and none come up as more of a hassle than Christmas. 

I won't waste the ink here talking about the commercialization of Christmas and how many claim it ruined the most important day of the year. Those same folks also claim it is the reason for the polar ice caps melting and the decline of the banana industry in Florida. Horrible.

But Christmas is the one holiday that penetrates all of society and creates waves of emotions that are almost unlimited. Shopping, decorating, travel, cards, work deadlines, guests in our home. Each of these can be wearing on our physical and emotional limits. Highs and lows. Hassles and joy.

The Spirit of Christmas came from a pretty hassle-free event that created a simplistic opportunity for folks around the world to experience joy. A baby born in the meekest, low-tech, inexpensive birthing center around, a stable. The birth of that child, now thousands of years later, gave us a story, a guide, a life to look at and know that through all the hassles and headaches of today, there is hope. Knowing Christ, Jesus, the baby born that day does not remove the hassles, it just puts them on the back burner. 

They never again have to be the objective of the day. 

This Christmas I am going to, again, try to be happy and do more for others. I am going to get out of myself and look to bless as many folks as I can. I am going to try to not complain about the decorations when my wife asks for my help and not be waiting with a cardboard box in my hand the day after Christmas to get this hassle of a holiday put up and behind us.

Each year as I get older the pages on the calendar go by faster. In my heart I so want to do life well. I don't want  to let the hassles of life get in way of loving my family well. I want to listen better and not consider conversations I don't instigate as a hassle. I so desperately want to reach out to others and not consider unplanned encounters a hassle. I want to celebrate life, the gift of each moment, hassle-free with the knowledge that I am loved by a heavenly Father. That my family and friends know I love them dearly. That I am not a hassle for them but a blessing. 

If this is the time of year you experience joy, soak it in. If this is a time of pain for you, look to a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Getting to know Him, becoming a part of His family is truly hassle-free, He designed it that way on purpose. Romans 10:9, Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

A very hassle-free Merry Christmas y'all. God Bless.

TJ Greaney