setting our sights

Though Moses was not permitted to enter the land of promise,
he was vouchsafed a sight of it from a distance.
We too, though as yet we are not admitted to heavenly glory,
yet are given to see much, in preparation for seeing more.

St. John Henry Newman
from an Advent sermon in Parochial and Plain Sermons

When I was in college, I spent my summers working at a girl’s Christian summer camp.
I was the riflery director.
It was a position I just kind of fell into…but that’s another story for another day.

At the start of each new summer, just days prior to the campers arriving,
I would be busy spending those days cleaning, testing and sighting in the rifles.
I oiled each rifle, tested each one for proper firing, and zeroed in the sights as best
I could with pre-manufactured sights.

I needed to make certain that each rifle was in working order for my campers.

These guns were traditonal bolt action .22 calibers… there were no fancy scopes…
merely the metal notch, aka sight, manufactured on the gun…
more or less what is known as an open sight gun.

The rifles usually took a beating each summer…they’d get dropped, whacked by accident
and stacked up inside a closet in the gym at the end of each day.
After being stored away all winter, I had to make certain the barrels were still straight
and the sights were not bent or, in some cases, broken off.

To shoot these old school rifles, one would have to close one eye while using the
one open eye to look down along the top of the barrel,
down past a small metal V or notch located up on the barrel.
You’d have to line up the notch on the rifle with the bullseye on the target that was placed
about 75 yards away–then take in a deep breath, holding it in while gently
pulling the trigger.

The girls would start out in what is known as a prone firing position—
meaning they were resting flat on their stomachs, perched on a mat.
Next, they would attempt a kneeling position and eventually a standing postion.
They usually preferred the prone postion because they didn’t have to worry about holding
up the gun while attempting to keep it steady when trying to aim.

Target shooting is a disciplined activity.
It’s about learning how to steady one’s body and breathing while focusing one’s vision.

And it is that focusing of one’s vision that brings my thoughts to this time of year…
that being Advent.
A word that means coming…
and if something is coming, we usually need to be looking for it.

And so I was reminded about my “shooting” days when reading St Newman’s quote today–
St. Newman speaks of the glimpses God affords us…glimpses require us to
be steady and watchful while focusing on what is to be seen.
As in zooming in and seeing something through a sight.
We have to steady ourselves in order to see it more clearly.

At Advent, God grants us this glimpse.
A glimpe of that which is coming…coming our way.
And so this is a time of preparation…the glimpse is given and now
it is our chore to ready ourselves for what awaits us.

The glimpse tells us that there is something so much more than just a mere
passing glance…we know that we need to be ready, steady and focused.

Time to zero in on that which is coming and that which is so much greater than ourselves.

Year passes after year silently, Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was.
O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven!”

St John Henry Newman

23 comments on “setting our sights

  1. bcparkison says:

    Yes…Withe each day passing we are one day closer. Praise God!

  2. hatrack4 says:

    I learned how to shoot, shooting beer cars (in a dry county, but I cleaned up along the highway to find targets). I had an old WWII M1 carbine. In Army training, we had M14s, because the M16s were all in Vietnam. I loved that rifle. It was heavy, but the sights could be adjusted in any direction. Once I had it adjusted for my eye, I could shoot sharpshooter (over 90% bulls eyes), but then they gave me a lightweight M16 with less sight adjustment, and I barely shot marksman – some improvement! But I did have fun in Army summer camp (like boot camp but worse). I destroyed three different targets, leaving others with nothing to shoot at) by direct hits with a 105 howitzer – direct fire, a vulcan (modern gattling gun), and a grenade launcher strapped to an M16 frame, I think it was an M151 (memory lost). That last one earned me the nickname of Davy Crockett. You have brought back some good memories of a not-so-good time. Good in that it is in the past.

    • I got to be a sharpshooter 7th bar on those little bolt action rifles— the camp director called Annie Oakley

      • hatrack4 says:

        Sorry, Annie and Davy were different eras.

      • Called ‘me’ Annie Oakley rather – that’s one thing I could do well— I could hit a target dead on—-

      • hatrack4 says:

        Some military ranges have a few targets at 300 meters. You can hardly see the target. I did poorly until an old sergeant said to aim low. The spring loaded target would go down by hitting it or by hitting the dirt in front of it and throwing the dirt onto the target. Yes, there were tricks.

      • Our camp director, who I loved and wa🤕remained close to for years following my camp tenure, was a very competitive man— he’d gotten hold of a fancy smancy pistol and brought it to the shooting range one day I was there with the kids…— he was bragging to the girls about how special the pistol was and and how not just anyone could shoot such a gun— well, while he was running his mouth, basically trying to challenge me, I took the pistol and fired one shot at some minute target he’d placed out on the range— well, I blew it away first shot— I’d never shot a pistol before that— he immediately went quiet, took his pistol and tucked tail— I was always Annie Oakley after that 🤗

      • hatrack4 says:

        A pistol never was my thing. I did fine with the 22 target pistols but the standard issue 45 for officers had way too much kick.

  3. jeffw5382 says:

    Cookie, Thank you for the sighting analogy and that it was a seasonal chore for you. I have been curious about Advent. I appreciate the sentiment, but If Christ and the Spirit dwell within and are at hand as I am mindful and in constant prayer. He lives in me and I in Him. The Advent season seems to me to be for those not so fortunately situated as I seem to be. Is it just a traditional season, I’m wondering about the history and if anyone knows, I am nearly certain you would be one.

    • I think these seasonal events that are on our liturgical calendars are dispersed throughout the year so that those who don’t know, may know and for those of us who do know, well we are to be tenderly reminded — I often need to be pulled back and reminded!!

    • pkadams says:

      Hi Jeff, I didn’t grow up celebrating Advent or anything other than Easter and Christmas. Then I was told that those were pagan and it took years for me to come back around and learn to enjoy them again. Now that I’m older I see the value in frequent reminders to the community to draw near in praise and worship for the great things that God did in the past , not just what he’s doing now . Too many do not know their Bible at all . These celebrations give a good opportunity to teach the young and new believers.

  4. says:

    My only experience shooting any kind of firearm was when I snatched Paul’s pellet gun out of the box, loaded it and had my sights on a squirrel who was raiding the bird feeder. I got my finger caught in the spring and created a huge blood blister. It didn’t deter me though. I tried again and the squirrel fell to a dramatic ending. I felt complete remorse for my actions, but the squirrel wasn’t actually dead – just stunned. He ran rapidly into the woods, but was back again the next day.

  5. pkadams says:

    I love this! My word lately has been “focus” which is very similar to aiming . Thank you for your insights .

  6. Citizen Tom says:

    Careful! You are going to get a certain politician talking about Conservative Christians and their Bibles and guns again. ☺

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