Marshall County High: When Logic Fails

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It happened again today in Western Kentucky. Once again we have been shaken to our core by just how fallen this fallen world is. No matter how many times we are confronted by an up close and personal outworking of evil, we are jarred by it. I pray to God that we never get used to it.

Western Kentucky is home to me. I wasn’t born there, but I raised a family there. I spent 23 years there, longer than I ever lived anywhere in my life. I love the place and its people. My son graduated from Marshall County High, he loved his time there. The people are good, the families love deeply, I would describe the region as one of the most beautiful I have ever lived in and I have lived lots of places.

So it’s impossible to put into words why this wonderful place must suffer these atrocities. Tragically, it isn’t only shootings this community and the region has endured. They’ve experienced other tragedies that are equally breathtaking, but it seems disrespectful of the victims and their families to list them here. Those who live there know what I’m talking about.

As a Christian I feel a sense of responsibility. I feel as if I must come up with some theological explanation or words of comfort that are big enough and deep enough to offset the hurt. But at 54 I’ve finally learned that there are no such words. Not now. Not this soon after.

There is an overarching truth however, and I cling to that. No, its more than that. I base the entirety of my life upon it.  Namely, that Christ is on his throne, and he will come again someday and set everything to right.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelations 21:3-5

Love wins. No matter how many times these horrid things happen, that’s not just an abstraction or some pie in the sky hippie phrase or wishful thinking. It is as Schaffer called it, True truth. Love does win. In the coming days it will win in Marshall County and in the coming age it will win all.

I dare not compare anything in my experience to the pain these families are feeling tonight, but I’ve seen it. I was a small boy when I saw the face of evil, up close, personal. I experienced it again a few years later and I still have the scars to prove it. But it was only a few weeks after that, at a Christian concert that Jesus Christ rode into my life on a white horse. He drove the hurt and pain away and he’s never left me nor forsaken me since that time. Everything’s not been perfect but I’ve never been alone in the valley. Love wins. Over time and applied liberally enough, it will win in Marshall County and in time it will win the world.

Beyond that, there is no logical explanation. We needn’t look for one. Evil is illogical. It is senseless. I look forward with great anticipation to its defeat.

Why the DAWGS in the Natty Matters

From my seat in Sanford a Couple Years Ago

I don’t know them and they don’t know me. I may meet one or two of them someday, I’ve got an autograph or two from coaches and teams past, but we will likely never know one another. If they win or lose it won’t make much difference in my actual real life. I know all that, yet I can barely contain my excitement. The team I have pulled for with passion since I was 12 years old is going to play for their first national championship since I was a sophomore at a junior college, one year before I would matriculate to the University of Georgia myself. Here is why it matters. Sports, rightly or wrongly, are a big part of our lives. In the South, football particularly, is a big part of our culture. It is so interwoven into the fabric of who we are it is difficult to describe. I hope we can keep it that way. I hope the money and the politics of the day don’t mess it up, but that’s a different blog for a different day. Here is what Georgia football means to me, and why this game looms so large…when it probably shouldn’t.

Georgia Football is Larry Munson playing through a transistor radio on my Pop’s kitchen table when I was 15. He and I were huddled close. We would look at one another wide eyed occasionally but never spoke. We were too locked into the broadcast. Dawgs were playing Kentucky in Lexington., Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that night I would one day live and work near there, and work for the Kentucky Governor no less. Robinson kicked a 29 yarder to win it. Larry cried out, “Watch it…watch it….yeah yeah yeah!!!” I can still remember my Pop looking up and smiling at me. I still see that smile to this day. I lost him in ’95.

Georgia Football is Munson once again, crackling through a nearby pickup speaker on AM radio, the windows down in the early September heat as we stood encircling a dove field in South Georgia with my friends the Cowarts. We wanted to Dove hunt but there was no cause to miss the game. I can’t remember the game but I remember us all talking to one another across the field about the game. Don’t think I shot a dove that day but for some reason the memory lingers and its a good one.

I remember Herschel Walker runs on a snowy TV with a rotary antenna and how we kept adjusting the rotation to try to get a better picture of this kid from Wrightsville we had heard so much about. The picture got fairly clear and then he ran over Bill Bates…My God a Freshman.

I remember my first ever Georgia game in person as they played at Auburn. Attending a real live sporting event had hitherto seemed an impossible dream, but there I was. I was struck by how even the ladies would bark like a dog at the very hint of someone yelling “Go Dawgs”. It was great.

Georgia Football is leaning against a chest cooler at a little country store drinking a Coke out of a green glass bottle that had flecks of ice on it and listening to the men talk about Jeff Pyburn and Willie Mac.

Georgia football is attending my first class at UGA. It was Biology. The class had a couple hundred students in it and I was blown away by that. But I floated all day because I was actually a student at Georgia. I couldn’t believe it.

Georgia football is countless games at Sanford, some with my girlfriend who became my wife and then the mother of my children. Later, when they were old enough, we took them too. There was the one game where we camped nearby, tailgated all day long, and attended a night game. That’s when I discovered 8 hours of tailgating was nearly too much tailgating.

Georgia football is the 2012 SEC title game between the DAWGS and this same Crimson Tide. I attended with good friends. It was one of the greatest games every played and we got our hearts shattered on the 2 yard line as the clock ran out.

Georgia football is a 2008 spur of the moment road trip with my son Nathan from Paducah, Kentucky all the dang way to Jacksonville, Florida to see the Georgia/Florida game. I managed to find a pair of what was then deemed an impossible ticket and Nathan jumped for joy as I bought them for face value. I was a King that day. We lost the game badly, but for the 12 hour drive and the pre-game and the first quarter we had the time of our lives.

Georgia football is going to be about this special magnificent season and sharing it once again with my family and my new son-in-law who pulls for the DAWGS in football because he loves my daughter and the DAWGS have grown on him. We are going to watch tomorrow and we are going to cheer the Bulldogs to victory and that night will become another thread in the tapestry.

The SEC commercial says, “It just means more.” in the SEC. Well, this game means more than it should, but it is what it is…a soundtrack to my life. Something that’s been a part of me as long as I can remember. I’m going to soak it up for all it is worth.

GO DAWGS!!!

I’m Thankful

"Kid" Miller and Rose. My Pop and Grandma

“Kid” Miller and Rose. My Pop and Grandma

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday of the year. Yes, I even love it more than Christmas. I would like to say that’s because I am not into consumerism or have somehow transcended the desire for material things, but its nothing nearly that noble. I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because my fondest memories of growing up are from that day.

Usually I would spend the night with my Grandma and Pop a night or two before Thanksgiving so I would be there for the cooking Palooza. The preparation would begin a full day before the meal would be served. I still have no idea how my grandma fed 25 to 30 family members an absolutely succulent thanksgiving meal from that tiny kitchen of hers. But she did so with military precision. Dinner was NEVER late and NEVER anything less than perfect.

A memory came to me very early this morning that I hadn’t thought of in decades. I was lying in bed at grandma’s. I guess I was 9 or 10. It was early, still dark outside my window. I had been awakened by the clanging of a pot lid and the pungent smell of celery and onions cooking. She must have been preparing them for inclusion in the dressing. I am ashamed to admit this now, but I remember being annoyed, maybe even a bit angry. Didn’t grandma know I was trying to sleep? And that smell was so strong! “Uggh. Who wants to smell that this early in the morning,” I thought. I know…what an ingrate. Like I said, I am embarrassed by it now.

Do you have any idea what I would give to smell that smell and hear that pot lid clang tomorrow morning? I would run to the kitchen and give her a great big hug and sit down with her and have a cup of coffee and talk as the cooking commenced. Then later in the day, how great would it be to see the old house filled once more with all the cousins and aunts and uncles that used to gather there.

Oh well…someday, in another place, at another feast.

Here are some things I am thankful for: I’m thankful first and foremost for salvation through Jesus Christ. I am thankful for family and friends as we all are. 

I’m thankful for a dog that follows every step you make, even when you are pushing the mower around, who is happy for a ten minute walk in the cold with you, even if that’s all the entertainment he gets that day.

"Chipper"

“Chipper”

I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to experience what its like to sing in a quartet when the harmony is right, push two hundred head of cattle with a good horse beneath me, be with my son when he bagged his first gobbler and several more since, to speak to an auditorium full of people when you said something that brought them to their feet and you know that you’ve made a connection, to have worked hard in a foreign land alongside other men when the goal was to demonstrate the love of Christ. And I’m thankful for Rosebower Baptist Church. The best most loving church I have ever been a

part of or ever will be a part of. 

This year I’m thankful for other things too, though it’s hard to say so. I’m thankful for the valleys and what God teaches us when we are there. But more than that, I am thankful that he brings us out of them. I’m thankful for roads that lead home, though not often enough, and for precious memories that don’t fade. I’m thankful for the trials that shape us, even when they hurt and are hard. Like the night I threw my graduation cap into the air and time stopped as as I caught it because as I looked around at my classmates I knew something they didn’t, that in mere days I would be moving far away and that I would never see most of them ever again. I cried on the ride home. And sadly, I’ve only seen a few of them since.

I’m thankful for a mountain ridge top one snowy morning at daybreak when I randomly let a Gideon Bible fall open and read these words from John 1:4-5 “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shown in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” And in that exact second the orange ball of the rising sun climbed over a distant mountain peak and blinded me with its brilliance. It was one of the greatest spiritual moments in my life.

I’m thankful for another snowy ridge in Kentucky when I stopped bird hunting and watched as big fat snowflakes fell into Racetrack Hollow (LBL) and the world was amazingly silent and the beauty made me forget about hunting. I knelt on one knee to take it in and my bird dog, Rebel, who was a hard charger and who never took a break in the field, came and leaned against me. I knew he was taking in the scene too and we sat like that for at least 15 minutes, just still, and in awe.

I could go on and on. But I’m thankful for grandma and Pop’s house and that I got to know so many of those Thanksgivings, that I can remember how my heart raced the first time I reached out and held Tracy’s hand, that I got to live in this country during times when it was perhaps at its greatest, for little country churches and men’s prayer breakfasts in the valley down in Talbot County Georgia, for old trucks, for Southern Gospel, for Hee Haw reruns because I used to watch that with Pop and they take me back there, for the entire summer I spent 12 hours a day on a tractor and ate lunch at a country store with a chest cooler where the green coke bottles had flecks of ice on them.

And I’m very thankful I like writing and that occasionally I write something that someone enjoys reading.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

 

 

On Stranger Things and Real Things

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Last weekend, I took an interesting and fun road trip with my son Nathan. First we went to the Georgia versus South Carolina game. At the time Georgia, for the first time since I was in college, was the #1 team in the nation. That lasted two weeks and we got to see them win as a number 1. As of last night that dream came crashing down as Auburn dominated us. But it was fun while it lasted and we are not out of the hunt yet.  We met one of my best friends from college and my Georgia Power days, Taron Durden. Taron has watched Nathan grow up. Its amazing how you can go months and not see a friend like Taron, but once you all are together, everything seems comfortable. Like you just hung out the week before. (Taron rarely takes a serious photo, ha ha)

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We also had a great visit with my sister (don’t know why I didn’t think to take a photo). She lives on a few acres and is a bit of an animal whisperer. While we were there she was bottle feeding a baby squirrel that she had nursed back to health after it was hit by a car. She and her husband Michael are also master gardeners and their scenic garden picnic table is a fine place to have a cup of coffee on a quiet fall morning.

Anyway, after the game we got up the next morning to return to Kentucky. Nathan is a big fan of the Netflix hit series “Stranger Things” and he got me hooked on it as well. If you haven’t seen it the show is an homage to 80’s and 90’s entertainment. Its a bit of the movie “E.T.” combined with a little “Aliens” combined with “Ghostbusters” with a hearty dash of “Stand By Me” mojo.

The show is filmed in various locations in Georgia but primarily Jackson, Georgia. That wasn’t terribly far out of our way going home and Nate wanted to stop by and see some locations. In season one, the Jackson town square is a primary scene. The kids in the show, go to the drug store often and hang out. And, as recently as the 80’s, that’s what we did too. When I was in high school in the 80’s, town squares were still pretty vibrant.

Some scenes from the mythical downtown series, "Stranger Things" Nathan in some photos still in his Georgia shirt.

Some scenes from the mythical downtown series, “Stranger Things” Nathan in some photos still in his Georgia shirt.

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If you’ve seen the show you know what these scenes represent and how prominent they are in the show. If you haven’t seen the show, there is no point in my explaining it all here.

As I said, the show takes place in the ’80’s and in the show this is a bustling downtown in small town America. One reason I got hooked on the show (there really isn’t an original idea in the thing but the story telling is fairly good and its suspenseful and pleasantly spooky) is that it takes me back. It reminds me of those downtown bike trips to get ice cream or a soda (which most of us didn’t readily have in our refrigerators at all times as we tend to do today). In this absolutely insane modern day world we live in, I enjoy the familiarity of the mythical town and the kid characters. That is, even if the plot is that the town is being invaded by aliens.

Even though I am an adult and should know better, I kind of expected the sites where they film the show to BE like the show. I expected downtown Jackson to be the kind of small Georgia downtown I grew up with. But something jumped out at me starkly during our photo shoot. Almost the entire town square is abandoned. All the stores you see here have “Out of business” signs inside them. There is a bit of junk, perhaps some empty shelves sitting around, but there are only a couple of operating businesses on this whole square. It was actually quite sad.

Somewhere in that I see a metaphor.  I wanted to go with Nate and visit the filming locations thinking it would feel good and familiar. But the show is just pretend. Small town America as we knew it only 25 or 30 years ago is largely no more. Blame it on Wal-Mart, blame it on small business regulations, or the changing population dynamics of a nation in flux. But the reality is poignant.  I know there are some towns where downtown is doing pretty well, (like Paducah) but they are more the exception than the rule.

To get these pictures we had to travel off the interstate and use the old two lane highways. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed seeing the little towns that I used to drive through to go to my grandparents house. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel, that we are no longer that America. Change is taking place in this country at a rate never seen before. The difference between 1980 small town America and 1950, really wasn’t that great. The differences between 1980 and 2017 small town America is stark.

What we didn’t know on the Sunday we took these photo’s is that a demon had entered a church in Texas and murdered innocent worshipers. I still can’t get my mind around it. I hadn’t gotten my mind around Las Vegas. How can anyone make sense of this stuff? Its beyond tragic. Its evil personified and its become more heinous and more frequent.

The climatic scene of the second season of “Stranger Things” ends at this school. It’s at night and the kids in the show are inside enjoying a school dance. They think the aliens (or monsters or whatever they are) have been defeated and life is about to return to normal. The camera pans away and you see this school with a massive monster lurking over the building. It’s called the “Shadow Monster”.

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Again, there seems to be a metaphor. My hope is in Christ. He is our hope and our stay. Yet at the same time, I wonder what is coming. What is going on in our country and in our world? It feels so often like we are trying to live life “normally”. We are trying to fall back on what is familiar and comforting, but there is something lurking over us. And we wonder what will come next.

The Shadow Monster Lurks over Hawkins Middle School

The Shadow Monster Lurks over Hawkins Middle School

Bringing Back Chris Skates Blog

Not sure if I even have followers anymore. This blog has been dormant far too long. I intended to bring it back in the spring, then we bought a house outside of Frankfort and moved again so things got crazy. This is just  a short hello post to let you know I am back. With my switch of careers and leaving Paducah (still the hardest thing I have ever done) and my beloved church, Rosebower Baptist, its been a tough year. I have had many unbelievable opportunities and experiences serving Governor Bevin, but I have also been far outside anything resembling a comfort zone. And, sadly, though I had two more near misses, I still haven’t gotten my novel, “Moonshine Over Georgia” published. We will catch up as time goes on. First, my first official post coming up next regarding this new era of life.

Thoughts of a Life Long Falcon Fan

My son Nathan. He actually thought this uniform would let him make the team.

My son Nathan. He actually thought this uniform would let him make the team.

Thoughts of a Life Long Falcon Fan

By Chris Skates

As I write this, I don’t yet know the outcome. The game is still two hours away. Fifty-one years. Fifty-one years, many of them horrid, we Falcons fans have waited for this. For me personally it has been forty-one. Having grown up in Georgia, I watched my first Falcons game with my grandpa in 1976. I was already 13 but due to some instability in my home life, I knew nothing about football. On that day, grandpa was patient with me. He explained the rules of the game and it remains a precious memory of time spent with him talking about something that was just for fun. The Falcons lost to the L.A. Rams that day. I believe the score was 56 to 3. Still, I was hooked. I have rarely missed a game either in person or on TV since.

The team and the league broke my heart earlier this year, and for the first time in my life I tuned them out. My reasons are stated here. I remain angry and disappointed by their decisions but as this year’s team looked better and better, my history as a fan got the better of me. I began to tune in again by game twelve. One would think that at fifty-three years old I would no better than to make such dogmatic proclamations.

That history went beyond games with my grandpa. Growing up I moved and changed schools often, sometimes in the middle of the school year. One survival skill I learned was to look for a boy or two with a Falcons trapper or maybe a sticker on his lunchbox. I could talk to him. Maybe we would become friends for the few months I would be in that place. It was an icebreaker that served me well.

Two weeks ago I went so far as to travel back to Atlanta. I took my son to the NFC Championship game against the Packers. We had attended other games through the years, the majority of them bitter losses. This time was different. It was different for the entire stadium than any sporting event I have attended. Though it was unexpected, the Falcons were comfortably ahead by the third quarter. The entire stadium was joined in a massive celebration from that point until the trophy presentation. It was as if the fifty-one years of frustration were being released by everyone present all at once. We had a blast.

After the game the celebrating continued into the Marta tunnels and onto the trains. My son and I high fived and even hugged, total strangers. All that was needed was to be wearing the colors. Even as I enjoyed the moment, I couldn’t help but think, “Why am I not like this at church?”

Sports allow us to hide our differences, at least for short periods of time. The Falcons theme for the season has been “brothership” (a word they made up but you get the point) or more recently, “brotherhood”. But sports are only a brotherhood that runs jersey or tee-shirt deep. There can be a brotherhood in Christ that goes all the way to our core. Would that I get as excited about that eternal brotherhood on a regular basis as I did about the Falcons game that day.

In the meantime, I wonder what my grandpa would think of this Falcon’s record setting offense. I wonder if those schoolyard buddies I once knew are watching today too. I hope the Falcons pull it off. I hope the city of Atlanta gets that elusive championship. Go Falcons. Rise Up!

 

Thoughts on the Trump Inauguration

With Michelle Fields at CPAC 2014

With Michelle Fields at CPAC 2014

I didn’t support Donald Trump during the Republican Primary. I was a Ted Cruz guy. But once Trump won the nomination, I admitted publicly that I would vote for him and that he was infinitely superior to Hillary Clinton or Bernie (Karl Marx) Sanders. (And yes that is me with Michelle Fields who was man handled by an ex Trump Campaign Manager. Just threw that in for giggles. But it reminds me that firing him and bringing in Kellyanne Conway was the best move Trump ever made.) However, since Trump’s transition team began their work, I must say I have been quite impressed. Many of Trump’s Cabinet picks have been nothing short of stellar. Scott Pruitt as director of USEPA is an absolute DREAM pick. As recently as two months ago I never would have imagined that such a pick were possible. In fact, I was honored to be one of 130 scientific experts to sign a letter supporting the Attorney General’s nomination. That letter was read at his confirmation hearing this week by the Senate Committee Chairman.

Overall, I am very encouraged and, when coupled with what’s going on in Kentucky, very optimistic for the future. That is a 180 degree turnaround from where I was as recently as 6 months ago.

That being said, I have to say a word about the protesters. It is amazing to me how many times these people call people like me and those who support President-Elect Trump, NAZIS. In point of fact. The protesters are the ones who share similarities with NAZIS (or if you will recall the National…Aryan…SOCIALISTS). The mindset of socialists hasn’t changed since that time. As I have told you repeatedly on this blog, the Democratic party leadership has been taken over by socialists. These protesters who are going so far to try to destroy the Presidency, are nothing more than anarchists. It is one thing to disagree with the incoming President as I did with Obama. It is another to set fires and wear goggles and gas masks and threaten assassination.

This is a critical time in our nations history. These protesters don’t just want to express their disagreement with Mr. Trump. They don’t want a tangentially different direction. Many of these protestors want to tear down free market capitalism and replace it with a socialist or Marxist (Bernie Sanders is a classic Marxist) model. That is a model that will fail miserably as it has over and over when tried. The one’s who will be hurt the most in that type of system will be the poor, the very people that the protesters claim to care about. They will not just go away after the inauguration. They will have to be defeated in the arena of ideas.

My Blog Comes Back To Life

Hello….hello….is anybody still out there? I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t. In the course of a career change, selling our home of 23 years in Paducah, leaving our beloved church, and moving to Frankfort, I just decided to not try to blog. But I want to start back. So MUCH has happened. For those of you that don’t know, I was honored to accept the position of Communications Adviser to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. I work at the State Capitol now in Frankfort. My new job has been full of new challenges and exciting experiences and opportunities. Best of all for this writer, I am writing a ton of very diverse things. Here are a few photos.

At the Governor's Mansion open house

At the Governor’s Mansion open house

The family with the Governor and First Lady and an elf

The family with the Governor and First Lady and an elf

The move to Frankfort has been a bit traumatic for us. Still walking around boxes but we are making unpacking progress daily. Our Golden Retriever Chipper misses his yard and his doggie playmates down the street but he get taken on more walks than ever. Some days I do feel sorry for him. He sits in front of our sliding glass door at the apartment (its a second floor deck) and holds his ball in his mouth and just lets out these big, sad, sighs. But…he will adjust.

I’m working on some exciting projects in the job and am part of a first-class team. I think you are going to see some amazing and positive changes in Kentucky. Kentucky is ranked 34th by Forbes as a good state for business and jobs. I am confident that that is going to improve greatly in the coming months and years.

In terms of my novel, no good news from my agent (who I just signed with in August) yet, but as the publishing business is now, four months really isn’t a long time. In social situations I often tell people about my manuscript “Moonshine Over Georgia” and the actual events it is based on. Every time I do, people are drawn in and fascinated by the story. This just has to become a novel and movie someday.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope to have something posted for Christmas. Just wanted to get reacquainted for now.  Merry Christmas!