Marshall County High: When Logic Fails

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marshall-logo

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.

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!

 

Lots of Excitement Lately

Wow! Am I ever behind on blogging. I am barely able to squeeze out one column a week right now, much less blog. I am not complaining, it is just that lots of stuff started happening all at once. All of it is exciting and good. One thing that I haven’t blogged about enough was my daughter married a wonderful young man. IMG_0955 After that, something exciting and scary came up that involves a writing opportunity but I can’t make that one public yet, but its a big deal for me and its very time consuming so prayers appreciated. More to come on that when I can.

Also, in there, Tracy and I went to the Ark Encounter. I wanted to do a stand alone blog on this trip but instead just ended up doing a bunch of facebook posts. Suffice it to say that it was very moving for me to visit and to physically see the ark. I highly recommend you plan a trip when you can.

Next, I traveled to Denver to attend the Red State Gathering. I met with lots of conservative politicians, delegates to the Republican Convention and just concerned citizens. I write about that trip here.

Katie Pavlich, Chief Editor at Townhall.com where I contribute holding a wallaby

Katie Pavlich, Chief Editor at Townhall.com where I contribute holding a wallaby

This is Katie Pavlich, Fox News Contributor and Editor at Townhall media cuddling a Wallaby. Yes, of course there was a Wallaby at the gathering. Why wouldn’t there be?

Senator Ben Sasse gave an excellent lecture on the Constitution

Senator Ben Sasse gave an excellent lecture on the Constitution

The hotel was a gorgeous setting for a conference. This was my view out the window as I waited for Senator Sasse to begin.

Rockies

Rockies

But perhaps the most inspirational speaker for me was Peggy Grande. She has a new book out about her years as personal assistant to President Reagan. Her talk was extremely interesting. She was so close to history being made. Buy her book. The photo’s she captured alone are worth it. But I couldn’t help but think how fascinating it would be to live that life, to see Margaret Thatcher and Reagan sit down and talk. IMG_0950Finally, the highlight for me was the Killer Nashville conference. It is so named because this conference focuses on Thrillers and crime fiction. There were 500 authors there. We were told at Orientation that we would be fortunate to get a single agent to ask to read our manuscript. There were no “Pitch Sessions” per say. Instead this conference used an author round table format that I liked very much. Ten authors got to meet for about 40 minutes with two agents. You got to request the agents you wanted and I was fortunate to get my first and second choices. You got to read your first two pages of your manuscript (and only two pages). The agents see so many writers work, they can make an assessment from those two pages. But you read in front of the whole group so it was a little nerve wracking. You had the option to use a reader that was in the room but since my story is in the voice of my grandpa, I chose to read it. I was so gratified that both agents were VERY complimentary of my writing and my story. Both asked to see the manuscript!! That was the best outcome I could have hoped for. I sent the manuscript via email as soon as I got home and yesterday my #1 most coveted agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group called me and we agreed he would become my new agent!! I notified the other agent today via email so that she wouldn’t use up her valuable time assessing my manuscript. I think this is a turning point for me as a novelist. Mark was the agent on a book that I often compare mine to. The book was originally titled “Wettest County in the World” but the title was changed to “Lawless” after the book became a major motion picture. I am VERY excited to be working with Mr. Gottlieb. I can tell he “gets” my story.

This only means that now I have a representative to call on publishers on my behalf. So it still may be some time before I get a publishing contract. I hope it happens within weeks but these things usually take longer than that.

In any case, it has been a whirlwind three weeks and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’ll still be writing columns and I love doing that too.

 

 

 

The Ghosts of Independence

The Ghosts of Independence

“Intrinsically it is but a barren, war-worn rock, hallowed as so many places are by death and disaster. Yet it symbolizes within itself that priceless, deathless thing, the honor of a nation. Until we claim again the ghastly remnants of its last gaunt garrison, we can but stand humble supplicants before Almighty God. There lies our Holy Grail.”
General Douglas MacArthur, upon the surrender of Corregidor and Bataan
There will be fireworks tonight. I’ll go out and enjoy them with my family as I have since my children were small. This year will be different, however. For the first time in my life, I will wonder what we are celebrating. We’re certainly not celebrating freedom or independence in the way our parents and grandparents knew it. After all, the entirety of our populace is currently ruled by four black robed, unelected, jurists who sometimes are often tyrannical. Most recently they passed down from on high that there is some mythical constitutional right that abortion must also include the risk of butchery (i.e. Kermit Gosnell) and that making the macabre procedure more sanitary and safe is somehow a violation of the Constitution. In the same week, these leftist activists refused to hear an important religious freedom case that prompted Justice Alito to write, “Those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”
The quote above came after MacArthur was ordered to leave Corregidor and the collection of cooks, mechanics, pilots whose planes had been shot down, seamen whose ships had been sunk and some civilian volunteers who had served as his “infantry” in defense of Bataan. And what a defense it was. Dealing with daily torrential downpours, nearly impenetrable jungles, without food or medical supplies, they fended off 20,000 Nipponese troops while living off of roots, leaves and occasionally monkey meat. They waited for reinforcements that would never come…would never even be sent. After MacArthur’s quote above, as a reward for their valor, these fighting men would face the Bataan Death March.
This Independence Day I am haunted by the ghosts of the casualties of battles like Bataan, Valley Forge, Hamburger Hill, Omaha Beach, Fallujah and the Chosin Reservoir. I am haunted because I can’t help but think that they are furious with my generation. Would they have fought so viciously and sacrificially if they’d known that we would roll over and give up our freedom, without so much as a struggle?
MacArthur was referring to a rock…a piece of land, but more than that he was referring to the national honor that piece of land represented. Remember the sailors that were taken hostage last year in the Persian Gulf? This week the Navy held a press conference in which they stated that a loss of morale led these seamen and their commander to make a series of mistakes that led to their capture. Ultimately it led to the release of far more information than the Navy code of conduct permits. Is it any wonder that morale was low when the sailors’ humiliation was preceded by Obama’s agreement to pay Iran twelve billion dollars of taxpayer money, all while the GOP led Congress fiddled? Is the honor of this nation any less at stake when the international viewing of American sailors on their knees at gunpoint was followed by John Kerry giving thanks to Iran for the treatment of the sailors? How do we inspire young men and women to fight for freedom when they know full well that freedom is daily being ceded on the home front?
We as citizens thought getting more informed would be enough. We thought if we voted correctly things would turn around. But if this presidential race has taught us anything, it should have jolted us from our delusions. All the conservative think tanks we’ve donated to, the candidates we volunteered for, the columns we have written and read, the hours of talk radio we listened to, haven’t been enough. We are losing the Republic that the “Bastards of Bataan” fought to preserve. At first the Republic was chipped away in tiny pieces. Now it’s being smashed away in large chunks.
This election cycle, ending up with two horrible Presidential candidates (one of whom is probably a traitor) has convinced me that the old tactics have failed us. I no longer believe that helping get GOP candidates elected can save the country. The primaries are very nearly a rigged game, manipulated by those who have been in power a long time and wish to remain so (the establishment) at all costs. Likewise, the media and the GOP are only able to work together for a few weeks every couple of years, during primary season when they share a common enemy…conservatism.
A couple of weeks ago in this space I alluded to the need for individual acts of valor. I think that those acts must manifest themselves in some type of major push for state’s rights. I am not sure yet if that means an Article Five convention of the States, or merely states actually exercising their existing Tenth Amendment rights. Nine years ago, I had never written a political column. I wrote about matters of the Christian faith, the heart and stories to make people laugh. Around 2007 I decided to turn the focus of my writing toward the political. I wanted to play a small part in articulating a Christian/conservative worldview back into political discussions. At the same time I volunteered with my local GOP office, eventually working on a winning campaign team at the state level. It hasn’t been enough. We must do more. We must move more boldly. There are legal, non-violent means of redress at our disposal. We must pursue them.
How ironic that on this Independence Day, the empire that we once fought so desperately for our freedom, now provides us with precisely the example of courage we need. Brexit should be our model. True independence from the federal behemoth must be our goal. So this year, instead of letting the fireworks be a tribute to the ghost of independence that has passed away, I’ll let them be a celebration for a new birth of freedom yet to come. I hope you will too.