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This was written after the second night of the Republican National Convention and published last weekend. Sorry, I am just now getting it on the blog.
Many of you have already read this story. This was my first published work and I am so proud that it was published as the centerpiece story in the 25th anniversary edition of Turkey Call. It is still my favorite column. Not sure I will ever top it. I am proud that today it was re-published at Patriot Outdoor News. Don’t worry, it is much more than a hunting story. Non-hunters will enjoy it just as much. Here is the link.
My Memorial Day 2012
I always try and make sure that I don’t treat Memorial Day like just another day off. Two years ago, I attended a Memorial Day parade. Last year I did a “Band of Brothers” marathon at my house. What a powerful movie. It makes me appreciate just a bit more what our veterans go through on our behalf. This year I sat down during the hot part of the day and watched some internet video of the Changing of the Guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After that, as a true patriotic American, I flipped on the TV to find a war movie. That way I could feel I did my part to remember. Instead, I channel surfed by the Memorial Day concert at the capital. And there I was stopped cold.
Bridgette Cain, a wife of a soldier, Norman Cain had written a letter about her husband and the father of her children. Specialist Cain won’t be coming home. He died in the line of duty. I won’t attempt to recreate the letter here. It was recited very poignantly by the actress Selma Blair who I now have a new respect for. If you haven’t seen this concert (it was broadcast by PBS) I strongly urge you to find it and watch it.
However, this piece is not to celebrate the entertainers, singers or the bands, each of whom did a wonderful and inspiring job. This is an article about a little girl, a little girl like the one I once had before she grew up. Following the letter, Trace Adkins sang a song for the Cain family and Norman Cain’s little girl cried and cried. She was only five years old. She cried with great heaving sobs, they showed pictures of her being read to by her Daddy before he left for war. They showed pictures of him holding her and her looking up at him with adoration.
She will cry more. She will cry often, just like all those family members all around this nation who suffered this Memorial Day in ways that most of us cannot imagine. I cried as I watched. Now, maybe I understand a little clearer what the cost of freedom truly is.
Dear God, my God, please send your comfort to that little girl and to all the little boys and girls this day who have lost a parent or a brother or sister to these seemingly never ending wars. Heavenly Father, let the loss of fine brave young men and women like Norman Cain not be for nothing. Somehow, in all this bloodshed let something…somehow…let something good result. Heavenly Father I pray that those still serving all over this world and in particular those in harm’s way would be blessed. Bless them Father that they may be led once again by men who have at least as much honor as the service men who they are in charge of.
Lord, let the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, experience a time where their leadership, especially at the highest levels will be occupied by men who truly understand the meaning of the words, freedom and liberty. Raise up leaders for these men and women who do not see these only as words worn out from misuse. Let them instead understand them in the context of your Divine inspiration and truth, to understand them in the way in which they were intended.
Raise up leaders for these servicemen Lord who will recognize that Democracy can only be shared with a people who have a basis upon which Democracy can be built. Let these leaders realize the folly of sending our young people to die in a foreign land for the freedom of others while our own political leadership cedes the freedom of our homeland as they force upon our population a State that is ever more powerful in its authority yet ever more incompetent in the application of that authority.
Dear Lord, let the freedom that these men fought for reign supreme once again in the nation that they fight for. And we pray Dear Father that this nation which you built shall honor and glorify you again and that this land of free people shall not perish from the Earth.
And here is my most recent article on Patriot Update. This will be a two part column. The concept of what I am writing about here will be important for our culture and our nation on a whole host of topics.
I am now also writing for Examiner.com. However our relationship my not last much longer. Examiner broke the story of boxer Manny Pacquiao regarding homosexual marriage. Pacquiao rightly came out and said that as a Catholic he believed that marriage is between a man and a woman. The fallout has been ridiculously over the top with the LA Times and others calling Mr. Pacquiao a homophobe and with the leftist organizations calling on Nike to abandon their contract with the boxer. I don’t know how dirty Examiner.com is on this. I will monitor the situation and go from there.
Meanwhile, I don’t care from some of the provocative photo’s that they put beside my first two articles there.
This is submitted as a column on Patriot Update. I am not supposed to post it yet because they have not ran it. But I am going to go ahead here on the blog. Please dont copy or forward so that I don’t cause them problems.
This was supposed to have been romantic. Instead not much had gone right and we were riding as far apart as we could possibly get without falling out of the car. We were both thinking the same thing, “Isn’t this typical of our lives?” Neither of us had said much but my wife and I were thoroughly annoyed with one another. And yet here we were, returning to the scene of the crime.
We were driving along the Shenandoah Skyline Parkway in Shenandoah National park. Twenty-two years prior we had camped here on our first vacation. My wife was six months pregnant at the time with our daughter. It was a camping vacation, not because we loved camping in a tent, but because we couldn’t afford hotels. That vacation had culminated in a miserable night of a torrential downpour, a soggy bologna sandwich, and a tent invasion perpetrated by what we thought was a bear but turned out to be a raccoon. It took a long time for us to reach the, “we will laugh about this someday stage,” but we eventually did.
Now, we were in Shenandoah once again for the first time since that night. The day was bright and sunny with only a few fluffy white clouds. I was pleasantly surprised that my wife, not an out-doorsy kind of gal, wanted to go for a hike. As we walked we held hands for balance. We did so reluctantly. Finally we reached a beautiful waterfall. However, just as we began to enjoy the view, a menacing rumble of thunder drew our attention skyward. A threatening black cloud was coming over the nearby peak where moments before only blue sky had been.
A soft mountain shower that evoked nostalgic stories of our raccoon adventure rapidly became much more. First, the rain came down harder, and then the lightning began. Lightning would strike seemingly right beside us with horrible claps of thunder following instantly. The deep valley we were in created an echo affect and magnified the intensity.
One particularly terrifying strike elicited a scream from my wife. She began to cry. She was beyond frightened at this point. And in that instant, in that peal of thunder, a spell was broken. Suddenly gone were thoughts of, “Oh great, typical for us, another trip turns to disaster.” Gone was my frustration. As my wife clasped her hands to her mouth, I could see that they were shaking. In that moment reality hit me hard, “This woman is my wife, she gave me my daughter and son and I love her very much.” From that point, my entire focus was to nurture her through this and help us get safely back to the car.
I prayed silently, for it is beyond my power to protect us from that which is so much larger than ourselves. Now I held her hand tighter than before. Unfortunately, with the rain, each step on the trail was steep and slippery. Despite wanting to run madly from the lightning we had to be careful and methodical.
On and on we walked, step after careful step and as we did, I came to a realization. This hike was a metaphor for life. In life’s journey, we only see the steps as we are taking them, some more hazardous or frightening than others, some quite easy. Then, suddenly it seems, we reach a point where we look back and only then realize we have climbed a great mountain.
As a couple, our journey began twenty two years before on that soggy night in a tent and then… step-a few weeks later our daughter was born. Step- we worked hard and bought a house. Step-(this one is really steep and slippery) our son was admitted to Intensive Care with a life threatening respiratory illness. He was only eight weeks old. Step-he runs track now and will enroll in Seminary soon.
Life is like that and our hike was like that, one careful step followed by another. After four hours and with both of us soaked, we finally heard a car. We were within yards of the parkway. It was only after we completed the long treacherous “step-at-a-time” hike that we reached the mountaintop. Only then were we able to look back and see what we had accomplished together.
We turned and took in a breathtaking view. The fog was lifting down in the Shenandoah Valley and though it was still dark and cloudy at our elevation, the sun’s rays were bursting through to bathe the valley below.
And that is where we are now, fellow patriots. Our nation truly is in crisis. We are all, each of us, on a socio-political path that is unfamiliar and treacherous. If we are not careful, the challenges ahead will embitter us. They will drive us to forsake that which is truly important. We must resist this.
Perhaps we have never walked this trail before but we have walked other difficult trails many times. Now, with God’s guiding hand and unyielding diligence and dedication to the principles of liberty and freedom we must walk step by step in the direction that we know is right. Sometime, perhaps soon, we will look back and see clouds lifting, bright sunshine breaking through and we will be amazed at the mountain we have climbed.
This is a column I wrote for The Cornwall Alliance last week. Was excited to have it published by Crosswalk.com. This is a new media outlet for me. I must tip my cap to my tough but highly effective editor, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner. Hope you enjoy:
Putting CreationCare.org’s Mercury Ads to the Test
by Chris Skates
Recently our western Kentucky airwaves have been bombarded with advertisements attacking Congressman Ed Whitfield. The ads, from an organization called CreationCare.org. wrongly accuse Congressman Whitfield of failure to protect the unborn (though he is staunchly anti-abortion) because he is allowing Kentucky coal fired power plants to “emit dangerous mercury pollution.” These ads are misleading at best and patently unfair to Congressman Whitfield.
We would not presume to question the motives of fellow Christians who are behind this ad campaign. We assume they share our ethical concern for our environment and desire to be good stewards of the natural world. However, we question some of their assumptions.
Assumption (1): Burning coal for the generation of electricity represents a threat to pregnant women and their unborn children. Like several other green activist groups, we believe that CreationCare has confused some of the data in EPA studies on mercury. They have likely confused what the agency calls the “Reference Dose” with “a dangerous level.”
EPA’s Reference Dose is intentionally set unrealistically low, we assume so that the agency can err on the side of caution. Here is how EPA arrived at this dose. First, it established the “Benchmark Dose” (BD): the “lowest threshold dose level” (85 parts per billion) that resulted in reduced scores on one particularly sensitive neurological test related to very subtle effects (but not on other neurological tests related to broader cognitive and intellectual measures). Understand: that was the lowest level with any detectable effect, no matter how subtle. Second, it added a “statistical safety factor” by adopting the lower limit (58 parts per billion) of the 95 percent confidence level for the BD as its “Benchmark Dose Lower Limit” (BMDL). Third and finally, for even greater safety’s sake, it added an “uncertainty factor” (to account for uncertainties in individual responses across the population) by dividing the BMDL by 10 to get what it called its Reference Dose: 5.8 parts per billion. (That proportion is analogous to the first 7-3/4 feet of a trip to the moon, or the first 5.8 seconds out of 31.7 years.) In short, EPA’s Reference Dose is multiples lower than necessary to ensure safety.
What’s more, multiple studies have called into question the connection between power plant emissions and mercury in fish. Mercury is a naturally occurring element, and natural causes have a much greater effect on the mercury present in fish. Therefore, the claims of these ads of a direct threat to the unborn from coal-fired power plants is at best greatly exaggerated and at worst demonstrably false.
Assumption (2): Draconian regulation on coal fired plants will be beneficial for western Kentucky. As stated above, mercury emissions from these plants have a minimal affect on a very small number of people. Yes, there are risks with emission of any amount of pollutant. Yet human health and well being in Kentucky are threatened far more by limiting access to affordable, reliable, electricity. In fact, even the EPA itself says implementing its proposed new mercury rule would have no discernible health benefits—but it would cost billions of dollars nationwide and force closure of some power plants that couldn’t be brought into compliance, thus forcing up electricity prices and weakening the nation’s electric grid.
This past summer was a hot one. Every year we hear of the poor and the elderly dying or being struck down by heatstroke. How much worse would this be if coal power is regulated out of business, making electricity rates “skyrocket,” as President Obama promised on the campaign trail? The Energy Information Administration estimates that it would cost well over $8.4 billion to obtain the lower mercury levels EPA is calling for.
Congressman Whitfield, through his service on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has simply voted to delay additional restrictions on mercury emissions until some of the ambiguity in these studies can be deciphered. He does not deserve the unfounded attacks in the Creation Care ads.
Chris Skates is an Adjunct Scholar with The Cornwall Alliance, A water chemistry supervisor at a power plant in southern Illinois, author of the novel Going Green: For Some It Has Nothing to Do with the Environment, and a member of Rosebower Baptist Church