Sunday, December 4, 2011

Inscrutable Beauty--A Slightly Different Take on Ecclesiastes

Some believe that the book of Ecclesiastes is only an inspired record of human wisdom, and, as such, it is a record of human error and should be preached from very selectively. I have never accepted that interpretation.  For the longest time, I believed that the book presents human hopelessness apart from God, but that it it also presents the antidote to human hopelessness—God can give life meaning and remove the sense of hopelessness. I believed that the opening mantra of the book—Vanity of vanities, all is vanity—was  an expression that described the unfortunate conclusion of those who have failed to find the meaning and value of life in God alone.

After preaching through the book in recent years, I have begun to think of the book in a slightly different way. While I do believe that the book presents an antidote of sorts to human hopelessness, I have come back to that initial mantra to reinterpret it, not just for the hopeless, but for all—for those who have hope and for those who do not. I believe it should be understood in this way:  Inscrutable, incomprehensible--the  rhyme and reason of life on this earth is beyond our ability to figure out.

According to this interpretation, God intends for life to be inscrutable for all. Even for those who have the advantage of a relationship with God, the ability to figure out life is beyond them. The author demonstrates again and again that life is full of injustice (3:16; 8:14), futility (1:1-11), and death (3:19; 9:3), and it all just comes back around again for everyone (1:4-10; 3:15). The book is very bleak in its frankness. “Face the facts, folks. Life is unfair, as most people understand fairness. Everywhere you look—in your own life and in the lives of others, in the past and in the present—you will find evidence of the inevitable inequities and futilities of our existence on this earth.” Where this interpretation differs from my prior understanding is that this apparent inequity is not remedied, or re-framed in a more palatable way, simply by having a right relationship with God. In other words, it is proper for all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, to face the reality of life’s inscrutability.

The author of Ecclesiastes proposes to lessen this inscrutability by searching for rhyme and reason in different activities and pursuits—in pleasure (2:1-11), in wisdom (2:12-16), and work ( 2:17-22). All three are common retreats even today for those who want to overcome the incomprehensibility and mundaneness of existence. But the author concludes that these things are unable to lift the fog and provide the rhyme and reason that most people search for.

But Solomon does not leave us with mere nihilism. In the centerpiece of the book, the author tells us that “There is a time for everything under heaven (3:1ff).” He says that God has made everything beautiful in its time (3:11). The arranging of all things, even the apparent inequities of our existence, serve the hidden purposes of the Almighty God. Unfortunately for us mere creatures, we are never guaranteed to be privy to those secret purposes. There is in fact a reason that these purposes are hidden from our intelligence—God built the constant need to find meaning and purpose in life right into the fabric of our being, and he has removed those meanings and purposes far beyond our ability to grasp (3:14; 7:13-14; 8:16-17; 11:15). Our lack of ability to locate that meaning and purpose—that rhyme and reason—in our activities on this earth points to one solution and one alone—Simply trust God. Solomon calls this “fearing God.” The book never implies that trusting him will provide the rhyme and reason that we are looking for. The answers and solutions do not come simply because we trust God. The book simply asks us to trust him in the bad times and in the good regardless of the outcome in our earthly existence. We are to trust that everything that happens, everything that we are going through, is beautiful in the timing of God. The only way that we can see beauty in the futilities of life is through trust. This removes from our handbook of solutions the notion that to have a right relationship will make everything turn out all right in the end. Sometimes—in fact quite often, according to the book—God intends for life to be incomprehensibly difficult. And yet, we are expected to trust him regardless. We are never promised that God will make everything turn out all right in the end of our earthly existence. We are to trust him even if life ends in death, injustice, and futile repetition. We are to trust that in the hidden purposes of God, everything is beautiful. Everything is planned perfectly. Everything is moving toward goals that serve the greatest ends. These purposes do not always require a happy existence for his creatures, but they are beautiful purposes nonetheless.

With this in mind, the author encourages his readers to enjoy life as much as possible. Do not be afraid to take advantage of every opportunity to milk this life for all the joy and happiness that you can get out of it. As long as we are trusting God—and keeping his commandments, as he concludes the book (11:9; 12:1, 13-14)——there are no limits to the joy that we should try to find in our earthly existence. This joy may be beyond some people most of the time and most people some of the time. But when opportunity presents itself, enjoy life as much as possible. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Solomon asserts that life is God’s gift, so enjoy what you can while you can—work, food and drink, possessions, relationships, etc. (2:24-25; 3:13; 5:18-19; 8:15; 9:7-10). Rhyme and reason are not necessary for us to enjoy life as long as we are obeying God’s commands and trusting him.

[First and second paragraphs have been reworked to reflect some input in the comments below.]

[My interpretation is not as different as I thought it was.  It is likely that much of my thinking was informed by what I learned from Dr. Michael Barrett in seminary.  However, there may be some slight differences in emphasis regarding the word translated variously as vanity, breath, wind, meaninglessness, or (my choice) inscrutableness. Here is his excellent series of lectures on Ecclesiastes:]

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today's Sermon: The Elders' Right and Responsibility to Exercise their God-given Authority

Today's sermon was the next in line in our study of Hebrews.  It is providentially timely because it naturally  addresses some controversial issues that are facing our congregation right now.  Several people have expressed concern that I have over the last three years only invited those who are members of Gospel-preaching churches to participate in communion. They feel that this leaves out those Christians who are not members of churches.  In this sermon, Hebrews 13:17 addresses the elders' right and responsibility to exercise their God-given authority, and I make application to the communion controversy that we are now experiencing. I upload it here to give those who missed the sermon the opportunity to hear how I understand the Bible on the matter. Click the link to listen or download.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Place of Israel in Prophecy

People still say, "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem." As I understood Dispensationalism when I was once counted among them, this means that we are to pray that the nation of Israel will experience peace from the frequent conflicts it has suffered over the centuries within the borders of its national territory and by those who have been dispersed abroad. Pray that they will be left alone and be allowed to return home to live peacefully in the territory it was promised in the OT. This perspective has unfortunately influenced national politics, particularly those of conservative Christians, for generations now. They champion Israel's statehood last century as a key sign that the end is near and the promises are finally coming to fruition. They champion political policies toward Israel based upon some mistaken belief that God still owes them a land. I suspect an ulterior motive though, because on the other side of this fulfillment, the dispensational charts tell us that we gentiles will finally get our mansions and streets of gold. We have wasted much of our Christian political energy to bring something to pass for Israel that God never promises in the Bible.

However, I cannot accept this perspective, because I believe that all the covenantal promises made to Abraham have been fulfilled in Christ and the Church. Christ is the King that was promised. The Church is the people of the Kingdom, vast as the sands by the sea. The promised land is the world that now is and the new world that will someday be. The Kingdom of God is the promised land. Its king is the promised king. Those who believe in Christ are the people of the kingdom. In my mind, the exegetical evidence for this is utterly overwhelming, given a correct hermeneutic.

What this means is that for Israel to have any hope of any participation whatsoever in the promises, they must repent and believe in Jesus, and become a part of the Church. Then and only then will they receive what has been promised. There is no promise of land in the middle east that remains to be fulfilled. There will be no restored temple on the temple mount. No more sacrifices. No ashes of the red heifer. Those who look ahead to these things in a literal sense misinterpret vast amounts of biblical prophecy and typology, and lose out on the blessedness of seeing Jesus everywhere in Scripture. Instead of seeing Jesus, they get caught up in timelines and charts. A complete waste of time.

And yet there is one promise that remains to be fulfilled for Israel--one that nearly brings me to my knees to consider the awesome power of God to save. I do not understand it completely. Romans 11 says that "All Israel will be saved." Obviously, "all Israel" does not mean every Jew, because generations of them have already passed into faithless damnation. But it must mean that at some point to come, some significant portion of the Jewish people will be saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Enough at least to merit the word "all" as a description of their number. This would have to mean that there is a generation (and with perhaps subsequent generations) of Isrealites that will some day walk the earth that will, for the most part, repent and embrace Christ as the true Messiah. We do not know exactly what this means because the word Jew has lost definition--is it those who embrace the Jewish religion? If so, which versions of Judaism? Or is it those who have some Jewish blood in their veins? Those who live in the territory of Israel? Who knows? But what is clear is that there will be a wholesale conversion of Jews (whatever that means) to Jesus Christ.

Romans 11 says that this will happen after all the non-Jews that God has ordained to salvation have been saved. What this means is that there is now or will be in the future a final generation that contains the last of the gentile elect. When the last of them has been saved--perhaps piecemeal conversions here and there much like what we are used to--there will be one last magnificent display of fireworks--the climax of the show. It is a miracle that any one gentile comes to Christ. How much greater will be the miracle of the wholesale conversion of an entire generation of Jews. Imagine that climax--the wholesale conversion of a people whose fathers have rejected Jesus Christ for centuries.

It sounds impossible to my human ears. Consider the Jews today, how far they are from Christ. But I know that salvation does not come by human will or exertion. I know that salvation comes through the work of God alone. He is the miracle worker and can do the impossible. No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him. All that the Father gives to Christ will come to him. Someday, a generation of Christians will have the privilege of seeing a display of God's power unlike anything that has ever been seen by human eyes. That so many who have adamantly rejected Christ would come to Christ is almost unimaginable. Those Jews (whatever that means only God knows) will repent, join the Church, and enter the Kingdom. Once again, the Israelites will be brought back into the promise that was made to Abraham. We will all be in the Body of Christ together. The Covenant promise will come full circle as the Jews are joined to Christ and the Church Universal.

So there is no promised land for Israel outside of Christ. No King. No special status as a nation. The promise that remains for them is the same promise that those who believe have already received. God brought promises to us through Israel, and God will bring Israel back to the promises.

In his mind's eye, Paul saw the magnificent final volley of fireworks that ends the show, and he said,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Move Chicken Coop. Check. Chase Chickens. Check.

This may not seem like blogworthy news, but we moved the chicken coop this evening.   It was too near the garden and too close to the neighbor's yard.  So I moved it out behind the barn with the help of a couple folks from the church. Then spent the next 45 minutes chasing chickens, because we doubted they would be able to find the new location on their own.  My boys and the neighborhood kids helped with this, by circling them around so that I could grab them with my fishing net.   The trauma will probably put them off laying for a few days unfortunately.

In other news, we are finally getting more eggs as some of our pullets are finally getting to laying age.

Friday, June 24, 2011

John Calvin on the Doctrine of Separation

The following quotations are taken from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 1. Each section is preceded by an editorial question. Other editorial comments are in brackets [ ].  Stephen P. Crawford compiled these quotes for our old website The Fundamentalism Help File.  All Rights Reserved. 

What doctrine is ground for separation?

“When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest so that we may safely recognize a church in every society in which both exist, our meaning is that we ought never to discard [such a church] so long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults. Nay, even in the administration of word and sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from [the church’s] communion.

“For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as the proper essentials of religion, for instance, that God is one, that Christ is God, and the Son of God, that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like. Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among the churches do not destroy the unity of the faith. For why should it be regarded as a ground of dissension between churches if one, without any spirit of contention or perverseness in dogmatizing, holds that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, [does not think] it for certain that [the soul] lives with the Lord?

“The words of the Apostle are, 'Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you' (Philippians 3:15). Does he not sufficiently intimate that a difference of opinion as to these matters which are not absolutely necessary ought not to be a ground of dissension among Christians? The best thing, indeed, is to be perfectly agreed but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation.

“Here, however, I have no wish to patronize even the minutest errors, as if I thought it right to foster them by flattery or connivance. What I say is, that we are not on account of every minute difference to abandon a church, provided it retain sound and unimpaired that doctrine in which the safety of piety consists and keep the use of the sacraments instituted by the Lord.” [Section 12]

What conduct is ground for separation?

“Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. Here there is great danger of falling, and Satan employs all his machinations to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness as if they had already become a kind of aerial spirits, spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still remains.

“Such of old were the Cathari and the Donatists who were similarly infatuated. Such in the present day are some of the Anabaptists who would be thought to have made superior progress. Others, again, sin in this respect not so much from that insane pride as from inconsiderate zeal. Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists.

“The offense is indeed well-founded, and it is one to which in this most unhappy age we give far too much occasion. It is impossible to excuse our accursed sluggishness which the Lord will not leave unpunished, as he is already beginning sharply to chastise us. Woe then to us who, by our dissolute license of wickedness, cause weak consciences to be wounded!

“Still those of whom we have spoken sin in their [own] turn by not knowing how to set bounds to their offense. For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it and give themselves up to immoderate severity. Thinking there is no church where there is not complete purity and integrity of conduct, they through hatred of wickedness withdraw from a genuine church [when] they think they are shunning the company of the ungodly.

“They allege that the Church of God is holy. But that they may at the same time understand that it contains a mixture of good and bad, let them hear from the lips of our Savior that parable in which he compares the Church to a net in which all kinds of fishes are taken but not separated until they are brought ashore. Let them hear [the Church] compared to a field which, planted with good seed, is by the fraud of an enemy mingled with tares and is not freed of them until the harvest is brought into the barn. Let them hear, in fine, that [the Church] is a thrashing floor in which the collected wheat lies concealed under the chaff until, cleansed by the fanners and the sieve, it is at length laid up in the granary. If the Lord declares that the Church will labor under the defect of being burdened with a multitude of wicked until the day of judgment, it is in vain to look for a church altogether free from blemish (Matthew 13).” [Section 13]

What about when whole churches have gone bad?

“They exclaim that it is impossible to tolerate the vice which everywhere stalks abroad like a pestilence. What if the apostle's sentiment applies here also? Among the Corinthians it was not a few that erred but almost the whole body had become tainted. There was not one species of sin merely but a multitude, and those not trivial errors but some of them execrable crimes. There was not only corruption in manners but also in doctrine.

“What course was taken by the holy apostle, in other words, by the organ of the heavenly Spirit by whose testimony the Church stands and falls? Does he seek separation from them? Does he discard them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he strike them with the thunder of a final anathema? He not only does none of these things, but he acknowledges and heralds them as a Church of Christ and a society of saints.

“If the Church remains among the Corinthians where envying, divisions, and contentions rage, where quarrels, lawsuits, and avarice prevail, where a crime which even the Gentiles would execrate is openly approved, where the name of Paul, whom they ought to have honored as a father, is petulantly assailed, where some hold the resurrection of the dead in derision though with it the whole gospel must fall, where the gifts of God are made subservient to ambition, not to charity, where many things are done neither decently nor in order -- if there the Church still remains simply because the ministration of word and sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of “church” to those to whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians who had done all but abandon the gospel (Galatians 1:6) and yet among them the same apostle found churches?” [Section 14]

What about those who would separate under such conditions?

“Still, however, even the good are sometimes affected by this inconsiderate zeal for righteousness, though we shall find that this excessive moroseness is more the result of pride and a false idea of sanctity than genuine sanctity itself and true zeal for it. Accordingly, those who are the most forward and, as it were, leaders in producing revolt from the Church have, for the most part, no other motive than to display their own superiority by despising all other men.

“Well and wisely therefore does Augustine say, 'Seeing that pious reason and the mode of ecclesiastical discipline ought specially to regard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, which the Apostle enjoins us to keep by bearing with one another ..., those bad sons who, not from hatred of other men’s iniquities but zeal for their own contentions, attempt altogether to draw away or at least to divide weak brethren ensnared by the glare of their name, while swollen with pride, stuffed with petulance, insidiously calumnious, and turbulently seditious, use the cloak of a rigorous severity that they may not seem devoid of the light of truth and pervert to sacrilegious schism and purposes of excision those things which are enjoined in the Holy Scriptures ... to correct a brother's faults by the appliance of a moderate cure' (August. Cont. Parmen. cap. i.).

“To the pious and placid [Augustine’s] advice is, mercifully to correct what they can and to bear patiently with what thou cannot correct in love lamenting and mourning until God either reform or correct or at the harvest root up the tares and scatter the chaff (Ibid. cap. ii.).

“Let all the godly study to provide themselves with these weapons, lest while they deem themselves strenuous and ardent defenders of righteousness they revolt from the kingdom of heaven which is the only kingdom of righteousness. For as God has been pleased that the communion of his Church shall be maintained in this external society, anyone who from hatred of the ungodly violates the bond of this society enters on a downward course, in which he incurs great danger of cutting himself off from the communion of saints.” [Section 16]

But isn’t the Church supposed to be holy?

“Since they also argue that there is good reason for the Church [to be] called holy, it is necessary to consider what the holiness is in which it excels lest by refusing to acknowledge any church, save one that is completely perfect, we leave no church at all.

“It is true indeed, as Paul says, that Christ 'loved the church, and gave himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish' (Ephesians 5:25-27). Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church. It makes daily progress but is not yet perfect. It daily advances but as yet has not reached the goal ...” [Section 17]

Do the Scriptures give precedent for these ideas on separation?

“On this head Christ himself, his apostles, and almost all the prophets have furnished us with examples. Fearful are the descriptions in which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk, and others deplore the diseases of the Church of Jerusalem. In the people, the rulers, and the priests corruption prevailed to such a degree that Isaiah hesitates not to liken Jerusalem to Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10). Religion was partly despised, partly adulterated, while in regard to morals we everywhere meet with accounts of theft, robbery, perfidy, murder, and similar crimes.

“The prophets, however, did not therefore either form new churches for themselves or erect new altars on which they might have separate sacrifices but, whatever their countrymen might be [and] reflecting that the Lord had deposited his word with them and instituted the ceremonies by which he was then worshipped, they stretched out pure hands to him though amid the company of the ungodly. Certainly had they thought that they thereby contracted any pollution, they would have died a hundred deaths sooner than suffered themselves to be dragged thither. Nothing, therefore, prevented them from separating themselves but a desire of preserving unity. But if the holy prophets felt no obligation to withdraw from the Church on account of the very numerous and heinous crimes, not of one or two individuals but almost of the whole people, we arrogate too much to ourselves if we presume forthwith to withdraw from the communion of the Church because the lives of all accord not with our judgment or even with the Christian profession.” [Section 18]

“Then what kind of age was that of Christ and the apostles? Yet neither could the desperate impiety of the Pharisees nor the dissolute licentiousness of manners which everywhere prevailed prevent them from using the same sacred rites with the people and meeting in one common temple for the public exercises of religion. And why so but just because they knew that those who joined in these sacred rites with a pure conscience were not at all polluted by the society of the wicked? If anyone is little moved by prophets and apostles, let him at least defer to the authority of Christ.” [Section 19]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our New Chicken Coop

The family got the urge to keep chickens for eggs.  So I built a hen house and chicken run this past week using some store bought lumber and some scraps laying around.  Turned out fairly nice, but extremely heavy.  Hard to move, but my boys and one of the neighbor kids helped me drag it into place behind the garden.  It is not yet finished.  Need to cut more ventilation in the house, and probably will paint it red at some point. Since I built it without plans, it is basic but very sturdy.  I will probably modify it as I learn more about what will be best for the hens and convenient for us.

Inside the hen house, I built some nesting boxes in hopes that we will get some eggs. We only plan to keep hens.  Not interested in raising chicks right now, so no rooster.  Bought a couple of Barnevelder pullets and threw them into the coop, where they promptly made themselves at home. 

We will get a few more pullets this next week, and then I will probably post some more pics. Hope to have them ready to lay eggs by the middle of June. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I Value My Legalistic Fundamentalist Upbringing

I left Independent Baptist Fundamentalism about 12 years ago.  Today I preach as often as I can against the legalism that I was exposed to when I was churched and educated within the movement.  I refuse to allow my own children to be exposed to that sort of legalism.  I would not wish fundamentalist legalism upon my worst enemy, so to speak. However, had I some magical ability to do it all again, I would not go back to change anything in my own upbringing.   The reason is that while Fundamentalism was desperately trying to make me more righteous and holy through strict applications of extrabiblical and unbiblical rules and regulations, it actually "shot itself in the foot."  Instead of making me more holy, Fundamentalism's rules revealed just how utterly incapable I am of holiness.  Through my struggle to achieve righteousness, I learned the extent of my own depravity.   

I value this because Fundamentalism unwittingly prepared me for the grace of the Gospel by beating me with the Law (or its version).    As I left Fundamentalism, I felt as if I had finally met Christ, had been truly saved, had begun swimming in grace for the first time in my life.  I now knew what it meant to live with Christ as my righteousness instead of me or others having to constantly endure either the weight of my failure or the arrogance of my success.

There are more biblical ways to learn about grace than through fundamentalist legalism.  The fact that learning about grace is its frequent result is no excuse to abuse either people or the Word of God.  But for me at least it was the Providence that gave me my own personal lessons about grace and, as the Law is a schoolmaster, eventually brought me to a more full understanding of Christ.    I would not change a thing for myself because my understanding of grace and the Gospel is profoundly influenced by my upbringing as a legalistic Fundamentalist.

It is an odd mix to preach against legalistic Fundamentalism and to be grateful for its role in my life all at once.  I think the paradox demonstrates the wisdom and sovereignty of God to use people in spite of themselves, like Cyrus was both judge and judged in the Providence of God.     

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Turkey Season in West Virginia

Spring Turkey Season opened in West Virginia on April 25, 2011.  The first morning, I got to my spot before dawn and called in a couple of gobblers within the first hour.  The first stayed out of range.  The second saw me raise my shotgun and then took off.   I did not leave empty handed, however, as I stumbled upon a handful of mollymoochers on my way out of the woods.  

The second morning, Tuesday morning, I was making my way to my spot just as the sun was coming up, when I heard a gobbler ahead of me and over the ridge near the spot to which I was heading.  I stopped short of the ridge and headed around the ridge instead of over.  Before I broke around the ridge I heard him gobble loudly, revealing that he was heading my way.  He must have heard me climbing through the woods, because there was no need to call.  They do not mind noise as long as they imagine that it might be another turkey.  

I froze when I heard him again.  Dropped my gear and stood with gun to the ground.  When he came around the ridge in front of me, I waited for him to pass behind a tree, and then aimed at where he would reappear on the other side of the tree.  He poked his head out about 40 yards ahead of me.  Standing frozen on a steep hillside with a heavy shotgun aimed  at a fixed point is not easy, but is essential due to turkeys' immediate reaction to any movement whatsoever.  I waited for him to clear the tree and then fired.  

He rolled down the hillside, flapping violently, in a way that made me wonder if I would lose him.  West Virginia hillsides are very steep, and he could easily keep rolling toward the bottom if nothing stopped him.  I grabbed my gear, put my gun on safety and then ran downhill as fast as I possible could.  Had anyone seen me, I am sure they would never have imagined that I could have moved so quickly or easily through rough terrain.  I am sure it was a combination of both the adrenalin and my imagination that made my feat possible.  I caught up with him about 50 yards down the hillside.  

He weighed well over 20 pounds and is now situated neatly in my freezer.    Eager to do it all again.