Archive | November, 2013

An Advent Reflection on Joy to go with Your Morning Coffee

November 30, 2013

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From kellywahlquist.com

Coffee

My friend Kelly Wahlquist is starting a daily Advent reflection using Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel. Her idea is to break it up into small chunks (she calls them sips like in sips of coffee) and read it through Advent. To follow along, go to her website http://www.kellywahlquist.com
What a beautiful way to prepare for the incarnation of JOY!
I plan on following… Join me!
Here’s the schedule for Advent. She will post the paragraphs and perhaps a little reflection each day to go with your coffee:

Dec. 1 2-8 (Joy)

Dec. 2 9-13 (Joy of Evangelizing)

Dec. 3 14-18 (Scope of exhortation)

Dec. 4 19-24 (Church’s missionary transformation)

Dec. 5 25-33 (Pastoral Activity & Conversion)

Dec. 6 34-39 (Heart of the Gospel)

Dec. 7 40-45 (Human Limits)

Dec. 8 46-49 (Mary)

Dec. 9 50-58 (Amid Crisis: idolatry of money)

Dec. 10 59-75 (Cultural Challenges)

Dec. 11 76-92 (Temptations of pastoral workers & Relationship in Christ)

Dec. 12 93-109 (No to spiritual worldliness)

Dec. 13 110-126 (People of God proclaim the Gospel)

Dec. 14 127-134 (Person to Person, Charisms, Culture)

Dec. 15 135-144 (The Homily)

Dec. 16 145-159 (Preparing to Preach)

Dec. 17 160-175 (Kerygma)

Dec. 18 176-185 (Social dimensions of evangelization)

Dec. 19 186-216 (Inclusion of the poor in society)

Dec. 20 217-237 (Common Good and Peace in Society)

Dec. 21 238-258 (Social dialogue as contribution to peace)

Dec. 22 259-274 (Spirit-filled evangelizers)

Dec. 23 275-283 (Personal encounter with Christ)

Dec. 24 284-288 (Mary)

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Tired of leftovers? Try this banquet of joy

November 30, 2013

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laughing girl

Photo/Cristiano Betta Licensed under Creative Commons

The end of one Church year and the beginning of another shouldn’t pass without a celebration. A feast even.

I know we’re still finishing up the Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m talking about a feast of joy, not food.

Before we get too far into the new Church year and into the penitential season of Advent, take a few minutes to sample some great verses and quotes about joy. There are no calories and absolutely no guilt!

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Let us therefore both praise and sing; that is, let us praise with cheerfulness and joy.
–St. Augustine

…for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
–Neh. 8:10

Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.
–St. Teresa of Avila

Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When our heart is pure and united to God, we feel within ourselves a joy, a sweetness that inebriates, a light that dazzles us. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax melted together; they cannot be separated. This union of God with His little creature is a most beautiful thing. It is a happiness that we cannot understand. . . God, in His goodness, has permitted us to speak to Him. Our prayer is an incense which He receives with extreme pleasure.
–St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth, and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
 –G.K. Chesterton

Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.
–C.S. Lewis

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.
–St. Gregory Nanzianzen

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
–John 15:11

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like –

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Recovering from my broken leg with St. Ignatius of Loyola

November 22, 2013

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broken leg

Recommended reading whether or not you have a broken leg: the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo/koishikawagirl Licensed under Creative Commons

One morning in October as I was walking across a street near my home, a man in a truck didn’t see me as he crossed the intersection and hit me in the crosswalk.  The truck’s bumper broke my right femur like a karate block.

A week later, when my head cleared from the hospital, surgery and pain meds, I wanted to read about St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. I knew that he broke his leg and had a faith conversion during his recovery.

I’m convinced that when saints come to mind it’s because God’s already dispatched them to help us.

It turns out that St. Ignatius also broke his right leg–the shin bone–almost 500 years ago. After reading about the horrifically bungled medical treatment he received, I didn’t feel so bad about the titanium rod in my leg that now stabilizes the healing leg bone. I also couldn’t help noticing that St. Ignatius bore his pain very stoically. I compared that to all my inner and outward groaning.

Just as I read about his life during my recovery, St. Ignatius read the lives of saints during his.  Reading his story just inspired me but when he read about the saints he thought about outdoing them in works of penance. Since he hurt his leg while fighting as a knight, I guess he was still thinking competitively at that time.

Before his leg was healed, St. Ignatius had a deep conversion that resulted in a complete change of heart and a new direction for life.

That’s not to say that from then on he practiced only heroic virtue. One account states that he nearly died from his injury. Then he spent time in a cave battling his scruples and stubbornly refusing to eat until God granted him peace. (His confessor made him stop.) Later he wandered around asking himself what he was supposed to do next.

But beyond those times of weakness, St. Ignatius led an extraordinary life. I was amazed by his continual perseverance in seeking and following God’s will, his great courage in founding the Society of Jesus despite innumerable obstacles, and his faith in writing his Spiritual Exercises, which have helped many grow in faith.

St. Ignatius was pursued and accused a number of times during the Spanish Inquisition. He made a long, terrible journey to the Holy Land only to be ordered right back onto the ship to Spain once he got there. He was beaten, thrown in prison and almost always harassed for his efforts but he kept going.

St. Ignatius inspired me but in reading about his life I thought that the only thing we have in common is that we both broke our legs. He seemed too big to imitate.

Then St. Therese of Lisieux, also a patron of the missions, came to mind. I think she would tell me that there’s plenty of opportunity to practice heroic virtue right where I am in the ordinary challenges and inspirations of daily life.

Good things that have come from my injury include meeting up with this great founder of the Jesuits who broke his leg and also remembering the insights of another great saint, the Little Flower, who reminds me that my own path to holiness begins right here.

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Catholic writer J.F. Powers remembered through his letters

November 22, 2013

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“Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of a Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942-1963,” edited by Katherine A. Powers. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, 2013. 450 pp., $35.

powers cover

Spending the last few weeks peeking into the life of the late Catholic writer J. F. Powers through a collection of his letters made me wonder, does anyone write letters like these any more?

Powers, the long-time professor of English and writer-in-residence at St. John University in Collegeville, used his gift for the language in frequent missives to friends and colleagues, which makes this collection of his letters read much like a memoir, or better yet a novel.

Perhaps cyberspace holds all the emails and social media messages we peck out nowadays, and perhaps and a tech-minded historian will be able to pull them down and gather them into book form. But I’d be surprised if any achieve the literary quality of those that Power’s daughter Katherine A. Powers has adroitly edited and packaged.

Take this sample from a letter in which he describes the long-time leader of St. John’s Abbey, Benedictine Abbot Alcuin Deutsch:

“He is a good man, but his last name is Deutsch, and if he’s like a lot of other Germans, and I think he is, he expects to get to heaven for not having made any impractical moves during his stay on earth. I have often wondered why they didn’t try to prove, somewhere along the line, that Jesus Christ received a gold watch for 33 years of service.”

That Powers ended up living much of his life in Minnesota’s German-plentiful Stearns County and working for the German Benedictines at St. John’s is just one of the ironies of the man’s life.

An good writer, but a poor one

“Suitable Accommodations” makes for interesting reading because it takes us into the mind of this unique character, a man author Evelyn Waugh tabbed “one of our greatest storytellers,” an author who won the National Book Award for his first novel yet never achieved the success he felt was his destiny.

Perhaps because his specialty was priests his was a limited audience and not populist fare.

The award-winning “Morte D’Urban,” the novel about a charming Midwestern priest who is as much a man of the world as he is a man of God, sold only 25,000 copies or so, and failed to receive the kind of promotion one might expect from a publisher like Doubleday.

Many of even the earliest letters — the collection covers 1942 to 1963 — foreshadow the life James Farl Powers was to live.

He refers to a steady job as “prostitution . . . masking itself as ‘honest labor.’ ”

He decries people who take the “safe” way through life with “a good position” or “in business for himself” with “nice homes.”

The irony, and it’s in the title of this collection, is that Powers was consistently writing in his letters about trying to find “suitable accommodations” both for his then-growing family and for a place with the peace and quiet to allow him to write.

Every so often he leans for money on his good friend Father Harvey Egan, pleading to the priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for funds to keep the wolf from the door until the mail brings a much-anticipated check for a short story he has submitted to The New Yorker or to one of the small-circulation literary magazines that have purchased his work over the years.

The late Father Egan, a one-of-a-kind himself as the pastor in later years of ultra-progressive St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis, gets credit for preserving many of Powers’ letters.

None of which fits, however, when you read in a 1947 letter to Father Egan that Powers’ tastes in liturgy lean toward the conservative. Living in Avon, not far from where Powers is teaching at St. John’s University, he writes:

“We like to go to St. John’s [Abbey Church] because there is no lay participation, or I do. I am only slowly getting the idea that I am surrounded by people who are working night and day for things like the dialogue Mass. Imagine my dismay at the discrepancy between the party line and my own feelings in these matters.”

Later he’ll refer to himself as “anti-laical” but also “anticlerical.”

Along with letters Powers wrote, his daughter has included a handful of entries from his journal. Often they show a man in despair: “May 18, 1959: Out of gas — creatively . . . I feel absolutely powerless these days to prevent financial ruin. Ideas for stories don’t come.” And just eight days later: “Money, money, money — this is the answer to every question confronting me.”

Man of many interests

Scraps of Powers’ varied interest show up regularly. He’s fond of playing the horses, especially during the family’s several stints living in Ireland.

He follows the minor-league St. Paul Saints baseball team, keeps abreast of the gossip surrounding the design of the new Abbey Church at St. John’s, chimes in a number of idea for names of the new National Football League team being established in the Twin Cities in 1961, would have preferred the Democrats had nominated his friend Eugene McCarthy instead of John F. Kennedy to run in the 1960 presidential election.

“I did not, and do not, like Kennedy. That doesn’t mean he’s no better than Nixon. . . . Gene McCarthy nominated him . . . in the best speech of the convention. Too bad it isn’t Gene instead of Jack, if we have to have a Catholic. I understand Pope John’s already packing. I think we can use him, too.”

He refused military service during World War II, was imprisoned for it and released to do compulsory work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul.

A curmudgeon if there ever was one, he  was against the Legion of Decency (which rated movies for decades according to Catholic morals), wasn’t thrilled that fasting regulations were eased, agreed with author Evelyn Waugh that he was more of a short story writer than a novelist and presciently had this to say about Calvin Griffith, the tight-fisted owner of the then new Minnesota Twins baseball team: “I do not think Cal will ever put our welfare before his own.”

It’s such good writing you’ll be disappointed that the letters end with 1963. You’ll want to know the rest of the J.F. Powers story, but daughter Katherine explains well at the volume’s end why that won’t happen.

That epitaph one should read on one’s own…bz

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A glimpse of what twins might be like in the womb

November 19, 2013

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As Thanksgiving nears, my husband and I reflect on how grateful we are for our nine children–including a set of twins that arrived when we were in our 40s. Because of these belated blessings we gobble up anything that has to do with twins (like the video at the end of this blog. But first…)

 On a personal note…

Our twins at age three. Picture taken by author Vince Flynn last year

Our twins at age three. Picture taken by author Vince Flynn last year

One thing is for sure: Our twins are not always as happy as they are in the above photo, but when they get chummy–it warms our hearts! When they were in their first “bed” (womb) they were not always as calm as the babies are in the video below. In fact, when they were born we could tell them apart by their “war wounds.” Each boy was decorated with bruises all over his face and body.

While in the maternity ward, I used to swaddle our babies together. I knew that they needed human touch more than a “singleton” did. This calmed them down even after they were circumcised and in pain. The surgeon for this procedure stood in amazement after each circumcision because she had never witnessed this “cuddling-calming” phenomenon before with multiples.

At age four, our twins still give each other comfort with their touch. Yesterday I heard a mewing sound coming from our boys. When I looked at them they were sitting at the table with their heads touching and arms draped over the other. Each had a thumb in his mouth and blankie in hand–humming with contentment.

Last week our second oldest and I took the twins to Target. The boys were in separate grocery carts and did not like being separated. When we rolled them out of the store, they held their hands to each other until they grasped. Then they started making that mewing sound again like they always do when they are cuddling. Our older son was flabbergasted, and other people smiled as they saw what the boys were doing. What a double blessing they have been to all of us!

The video

I wanted to share with you a moving video that  family and friends sent our way. It shows what multiples might be like in the womb. (But these babies are actually in a bath after being born.) As you watch this video that went viral, be thankful for the gift of life! Happy Thanksgiving!

YouTube Preview Image

To learn more about this video and baby bathing technique, watch this Today video:

YouTube Preview Image
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A nice doe, and fixing my bow

November 19, 2013

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The 3A firearms deer season was very, very tough this year. Deer sightings were down from last year, which meant few shot opportunities. I missed a shot at a small doe on Nov. 10, and didn’t see a deer on Nov. 14 when my friend Bernie Schwab and I went out for an afternoon hunt.

The next day, my son, Andy, went out for an all-day hunt. He hunted one stand in the morning, then switched to another after not seeing a deer. Near the end of the day, he decided to climb down and walk the edge of a picked cornfield. His decision paid off when a doe jumped out of the woods and ran out in front of him. She stopped at about 50 yards, and he took a quick shot while she was stationary.

She turned and ran, and he wasn’t sure if he hit her or not. Then, on the far side of the field, he heard what he thought was a crashing sound in the woods. He walked over, then spotted her on the ground just a few yards into the woods. Turns out he made a perfect shot, and in the process, harvested his first deer ever in Minnesota.

That’s two deer for our family, with both getting processed at Stasny’s meat market in St. Paul. The buck I shot with my bow on Nov. 6 is already in the freezer, and Andy’s will end up there soon.

I went out one last time on the final day of the gun season on Sunday. I saw a doe and fawn enter the field with about 15 minutes of shooting light left. They were very far away (about 150 yards) and it was very windy, so I felt the shot was too far. It didn’t seem like they were going to get any closer, so I decided to climb down and stalk in on them. But, I think they saw me climbing down from the stand because when I crested the hill, they were gone. Oh well. That’s how it goes.

Bad bow decision

Meanwhile, I had a problem to deal with. On Saturday, when I went out to take some practice shots with my bow, I committed the cardinal sin of archery – I drew back and hit my release with no arrow nocked. That’s called dry firing and it can damage or even ruin your bow. It was a sick sound when I released the string, and an even sicker feeling after realizing what I had done.

Immediately, I called A1 Archery in Hudson to tell them what happened and ask what I should do. The guy I talked to said to bring my bow in so they could look at it. He said the guys there should be able to fix it, but there could be damage to the string, cams or limbs. I was very nervous, but hopeful that I didn’t ruin the bow.

I took it in yesterday (Monday) and one of the guys gave it a thorough check. Turns out, the only problem was that the string twisted, causing the peep sight to move out of position. He put my bow on a press, and fixed the problem in a matter of minutes. And, as a bonus, he fixed another problem on my bow – stripped threads where my stabilizer screws into the bow. Here’s the best part – they did not charge me a penny for the repairs! Not only that, they let me shoot some arrows at their indoor range to verify that the bow was working the way it should.

It definitely was worth the trip, and I say a big THANK YOU to the guys at A1 Archery. I was already a loyal customer before I went in, and now I will be an A1 customer for life. Not sure when I will need to get a new bow, but if and when I do, you can bet I’ll be going to A1. My brother-in-law did, and he’s very happy with the Mission bow he bought there. In fact, he took a doe with it several weeks ago. Maybe, he’ll take a nice buck with it someday. I sure hope he does.

I never would have imagined that I would go home from A1 yesterday with a bow in better working order than before the dry firing. That proves the truth of one of my favorite Scripture verses, Romans 8:28, which says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

I’m especially glad to have the bow working again because I plan to hunt later this week for a doe. I have two bonus antlerless tags left, and I would like to fill at least one of them so I can give some venison to people who didn’t get a deer during the gun season this year.

St. Hubert, please help me!

 

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Deer not so active on gun opener

November 12, 2013

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As always, I was brimming with optimism on the morning of the Minnesota firearms deer opener. I was hunting the property near Red Wing where I had taken the largest buck of my life on the last day of the 2012 season.

My plan was to hunt in my tripod stand in the middle of the property in the morning, then switch to a ladder stand on the south end where I had shot my big buck. Amazingly, I did not see a deer all day, and didn’t hear much shooting either.

My brother Paul and son Andy were on properties nearby, and neither of them saw a deer all weekend. We hunted all day on Saturday, then came back Sunday afternoon.

The wind, I believe, had a lot to do with the diminished deer movement. This was as windy an opener as I have every seen, with gusts of more than 30 mph throughout the day.

Sunday was quieter, so we were hopeful for a deer sighting. In the last half hour of shooting light, I finally heard something walking behind me. A small doe walked right past my stand and continued in the woods to my left. I didn’t have a clear shot, but figured she would turn right to go into the picked corn field in front of me.

I was right. She turned at about 15 yards and slowly walked toward the edge of the field. Finally, she stepped out, giving me a full view and a perfect broadside. I put the crosshairs behind her shoulder and fired.

She jumped and ran, so I fired again. I was expecting her to drop, but she didn’t. She continued to run around in the field, obviously confused by the loud noise that shattered the quiet and peaceful evening.

As it turns out, I shot four times, and all were off the mark. But, it was the first miss that was particularly disturbing. I have not missed a broadside shot at a deer standing still from within 50 yards since buying the shotgun and scope in 1997.

What’s the problem?

Something had to be wrong. I thought back to two years ago, when I took my dad on a special hunt for war veterans up at Camp Ripley. His guide for the hunt inadvertently ran over my shotgun with his pickup. I took it in to a gunsmith when I got back, and he gave it a clean bill of health except for some shifting of the scope on the cantilever barrel.

It seemed to work fine that year, as I shot three deer, a nice eight-point buck and two does. Then, last year, I shot the big buck with it. I figured nothing was wrong, and went to sight it in this year several weeks ago.

I ended up having trouble zeroing it in at 50 yards, with one shot hitting low and to the left after I had made adjustments. Finally, I thought I had it dialed in at 50 yards. I even took a shot at 100 yards, and it hit with two inches of the bullseye.

But, I think I should have paid attention to the errant shots. I called the company that makes the scope, Leupold, and described my problems. The guy I talked to said there definitely could be some internal problems, perhaps caused by the gun and scope getting run over. He recommended that I send the scope in.

I will definitely do that. And, I plan on using a different gun if I am able to get back out in the field during the rest of the season. I’m not too disappointed, though, as I already have one deer at the butcher. Actually, I was trying to get a deer for the landowner, who had a license plus a special landowner doe tag. He has health issues, and all he is able to do is drive around his lower field with his shotgun and look for deer. I promised to help him get one, so I wasn’t happy about missing that doe.

Oh well. That’s how it goes sometimes. Equipment problems happen, and I suppose I should have expected some damage to the scope and sent it in earlier. That one is on me. Fortunately, we have another shotgun that isn’t being used that I can take out into the field later this week.

More bow hunting action

Meanwhile, I decided to go out into the woods this morning closer to home for a morning bow hunt. The temperature dipped all the way down to 13 degrees, but I was comfortable thanks to a new set of Gamehide hunting clothes I picked up yesterday afternoon from my friend Steve Huettl. It was time for a new set, and the timing was great.

I planned to sit until about 9 a.m., if I could stand it that long. Actually, I think I could have lasted all day, except for cold toes. I ended up seeing six deer, four bucks and two does. The bucks came in close, and I think I could have gotten a shot off at one of them, except for the fact that you are only allowed one buck per year in Minnesota. So, I had to merely watch the bucks, which was fun. I always enjoy deer sightings in close.

The first deer I saw were two does that came in to about 25 or 30 yards. One of them turned broadside, and I took a shot. But, the arrow sailed low. I think it was a combination of the deer being farther away than I thought, and possibly hitting a branch. That’s the trouble with longer shots. You need to be sure of the exact distance of the deer, plus make sure there aren’t little branches in the way. With the foliage down, those pesky little branches are much harder to see. You can think you have a clear shot, but don’t.

That was my problem. Oh well. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s always nice to hunt on crisp November days, and seeing six deer definitely was worth it. Hopefully, I’ll get more bow hunting in before the season ends at the end of December.

Up next: Montana the week of Thanksgiving. We will buy $80 whitetail doe tags and, hopefully, have some action out west!

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Finally, a deer with my bow!

November 7, 2013

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After three seasons of challenges and heartaches, success finally comes on Nov. 7.

After three seasons of challenges and heartaches, success finally comes on Nov. 6

As I climbed into my deer stand for a day of bow hunting yesterday, Nov. 6, I was greeted with a spectacular sight – a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

It had snowed overnight, creating a winter wonderland. It was cold, quiet and beautiful, and I was very thankful to be enjoying God’s work of art on this crisp fall morning.

Of course, I was hoping the icing on the cake would be the sight of a deer walking past my stand and giving me an opportunity to harvest my first whitetail with a bow.

It didn’t take long for the landscape to come to life. Less than an hour into the hunt, I saw a doe racing into the field just to the south of me. She circled around, then dashed back into the woods. I knew what was going on – she was being chased by a buck.

A very good sign! The rut seemed to be taking longer to kick in this year, and this was an indication that things were finally happening. My optimism skyrocketed as I continued my vigil.

Only about 15 or 20 minutes later, another doe came dashing out into the field, this time with two fawns in tow. Then, a fourth deer came out behind her. This one was a small buck, and it was grunting as it tried to keep pace with the doe.

This was going to be a good day, I figured. Although I was planning to sit all day, I had a feeling I wouldn’t have to wait that long for a deer to come close enough for a shot.

A third sighting

Would I see something close enough for a shot? That’s the question I asked myself as I continued standing watch over the trail coming east from a thicket nearby. I just had a sense that something might come out of there.

As the clouds cleared around 8 a.m. and the sun made an appearance, the snow began to melt. The snow that had coated tree branches began sounding like rain as it let go and fell to the ground. It was a lot of noise, and I wondered if it might make the deer nervous.

I also knew it would make it harder to hear whitetails approach. So, I would have to be on my toes. As the minutes ticked by and it got close to 9, I thought I heard some noise coming from the thicket. It seemed like more than just the snow melting and landing on the ground like raindrops.

I decided to keep an eye on the thicket, and continued looking that way. Then, when I looked back there to my left once again, I was startled by the sight of a deer walking from the thicket toward me. Its head was down, so I didn’t know if it was a buck or doe at first. After a few seconds, it looked up and I saw antlers. A buck!

Close encounter

My heart raced momentarily, then my mind kicked in and started thinking about what to do next. With the buck’s head down as he continued to walk, I slowly reached over and grabbed my bow, which was sitting strategically in front of me on a holder. As soon as I put my left hand around the grip, the buck shot his head up and looked right at me – pretty unnerving at only about 15 yards!

Fortunately, I remembered what my friend and mentor Steve Huettl had told me to do when this happens – freeze and wait for the deer to lower its head and resume walking. I did so, and the buck eventually dropped its head and kept coming toward me. He looked up one more time, then worked his way to a perfect broadside position.

He stopped one last time just before getting even with me, and I knew I was just seconds away from a shot opportunity. I could have thought about all of the other shots I have taken at deer with my bow over these last three seasons – eight total, with five hitting the deer, but zero recoveries. Instead, I pushed all of the previous failures out of my mind and got ready to draw.

The moment of truth

After nibling on a small bush almost barren of leaves, the buck slowly took a couple of steps and drew even with me. I could have drawn and shot at this point, but I decided to let him walk a step or two past me. This does two important things: 1. Gets that pesky front shoulder out of the way, and 2. Puts me out of the deer’s field of view, allowing movement of drawing back without being seen.

This is a point that I think some bow hunters miss, but it causes such a tremendous advantage. The buck got past me and stopped. I drew back, anchored my 20-yard pin behind his front leg and released the arrow. Thanks to a lighted nock with my NuFletch system, I saw that the arrow had passed through the deer. It was sticking in the ground, clearly visible in the snow. Also, I happened to catch a spot of red on the deer’s body as it jumped and bounded off.

Everything looked and felt right. Would this be the time that I would finally recover a deer and put a tag on it?

Time for tracking

Experienced bow hunters will say it is after the shot that the hunt actually begins. I watched the buck run out of sight, then I sat still for a minute to contemplate what had just happened. Then, I called Steve and told him the news. He suggested that I take my binoculars out and look at the arrow to see if there was any blood.

I pulled them out of my backpack and locked the lenses onto the arrow. Sure enough, there were drops of blood under the fletching that were easily visible in the snow. This is a GREAT sign, and my hopes soared after seeing this.

I waited for about 45 minutes, then climbed down to start tracking. The first thing I did was go over to my arrow and take a look at it. I pulled it out of the ground and saw that it was soaked in blood from end to end. I also saw that the Rage two-blade mechanical broadhead was fully deployed. I had a very good feeling about this!

I went over to the last place I saw the deer and began looking at the ground for blood. I saw a few drops in the snow right away and started following them. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but it left a steady trail that I was able to follow without too much trouble. Then, I hit a large spot where the snow had melted, and my heart sank. Had I waited too long to track?

I called Steve and asked him what to do. He told me that it’s not uncommon for deer not to bleed too much initially, and said I just need to keep looking for more blood, and to take my time. So, I paused, took a deep breath, and walked past the bare spot to the snow beyond it.

Not this time

But, a question started to nag at me: Would this search for a deer turn up empty like all the others? It was hard to shake this doubt, even though there were plenty of encouraging signs. I decided to take Steve’s advice and work slowly and methodically, even if it meant getting down on my hands and knees to look for blood.

That maneuver proved unnecessary. I spotted blood quickly after that, and there seemed to be more of it. Then, I got to a thicker spot of woods, and looked at a couple of downed branches covered with snow. There was blood on the branches, and I started to develop a clear sense of anticipation. The buck couldn’t be far away, I thought.

I spotted more blood as I continued walking, and finally noticed it higher up on some shrubs. It was glistening against the snow, and I just felt I would find the buck soon. I plowed ahead, picking up the pace a bit as the blood trail started to get heavier.

Finally, I looked ahead and saw something brown laying on the ground. I stepped ahead quickly, still not fully committed to believing it was my buck. After all, I had been fooled by logs before.

This was no log. It was him! I knelt down and put my hands on him. Shortly after that came my prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, which is my custom. In that joyful moment, three seasons of frustration melted away along with the shrinking snow pack on the ground. A beautiful morning just became perfect for this hunter!

Hardest task ever

I have always had a deep respect for bow hunters, especially those who are able to harvest a deer. I found out firsthand how difficult this can be. I was just hoping that on one magical occasion, things would all come together and I could have a successful bow hunt. This was the day.  Thanks be to God!

Of course, with the deer recovered, the real work began. I went back to my car and got my camera. I took some pictures, field dressed the deer, then began the journey back to the car. Fortunately, my good friend Bernie Schwab had loaned me his deer cart. Otherwise, I might still be dragging that buck out.

I got it back to car, then went home and exchanged the car for our van and hooked up the trailer. I picked up the deer, then headed to Stasny’s Food Market on Western Avenue in St. Paul for processing. The owner of the store, Jim Stasny, was there, and I gladly put in an order for some of his awesome venison summer sausage to make from my trimmings.

A happy ending to a wonderful day in the woods!

 

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Why does this FBI agent run with his daughter with Down syndrome?

November 7, 2013

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If you haven’t seen this ESPN video, here’s your chance.

It’s about  how a man with “genetically superior genes” reacted when he discovered he and his wife were expecting a child with Down syndrome. “I felt like I was getting a broken baby,” he tells the journalist. His wife was afraid he’d run away–quite literally. But he now knows that this little girl is his “light in the darkness,” and what a privilege it is to be her daddy.

  • What was the turning point that made Heath White respect Paisley’s life?
  • Why does he write her letters and run marathons with her?

Watch and find out.

I’m flabbergasted, and thrilled, that such a popular sports news channel produced this pro-life story!

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