Sunday, December 27, 2015

Off With Their Heads

One hot topic that continues to crop up is the death penalty. Some states have it, and some don't. Some studies show it deters crime, and others show it doesn't. Shoot them? Hang them? Electrocute them? Give them a "killer" cocktail? There is one reason why the death penalty is so difficult, and that reason always seems to be missed.

Some say the death penalty is cruel and painful to the one being put to death. For me, I really don't give a flip whether or not it is painful to the recipient. In all honesty, the more cruel the crime, the more cruel the method. Anyone who cries that the method is too cruel needs their head examined. No one asked the victims of the crime of their preferred method of being killed.

According to WebMD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects an individual who "has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened." It is a "lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers."

There is one other group that experience PTSD, and I think that group is THE reason why the death penalty is considered cruel and unusual punishment: the individuals who have to perform the executions.

I've read that even highly-trained soldiers will "purposely" miss their targets if it won't jeopardize their mission. There are very few "American Snipers". Why? Because taking another human life is never considered the first, best solution. Just look at all the bad press the police get whenever they fire their weapons.

So what's the solution? You need to have the people who take lives every day without remorse perform the executions. Who are they? Those who work at Planned Parenthood, of course. And as a bonus, they are already supported by tax payers. Since our government refuses to defund them, let's have them do the work that they do so well.

Before you get mad, tell me: what has more human value: an unborn, innocent baby, or a convict on death row?

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Makin' a List, and Checkin' it Twice

It's December; the end of another year. One common practice is to take inventory of the past year and figure what you are thankful for, what accomplishments you've made, and what you'd like to do better. For this post, I'm going to focus on some of the "things" I'm thankful for.

First and foremost: my wife, Lisa. No finer a lady walks this earth, than the one who said "I do" to me all those years ago. We are currently in our tenth year of marriage (July 2016 will be the 10th anniversary), and the love I have for her continues to grow daily (which confuses me, since I love her NOW more than ever - so how does it seem to grow?!?) The last ten years have chronicled many a change in my life (some of which I will write about in an upcoming blog), and she has not only been here, but has encouraged me through each and every one. Never judgmental, but never afraid to "put my feet to the fire" and ask me the hard questions. I don't think I would be the man I am today without her. "I love you, Lisa".

During the year we got to experience the joy and blessings of the marriage union of two wonderful people, Shaun and Jessica, and their incredible children, Zach and Morgan. I devoted a blog to them, so I won't go into too much detail here. It's enough to say that I am so thankful they opened up their lives to us and allowed us to share in the foundations of a wonderful future.

From part of 2014 through part of 2015, I was on a sabbatical. Part of that sabbatical was a separation from what I considered "normal Christianity". You can read about that in some of my previous blogs (too many to list here). One of the side effects of being on such a sabbatical was the stepping down from the worship team at my church. (I've been a member of that team for many a year, providing bass vocals, what I call "ugly tenor" lead vocals, harmonica, and percussion accompaniment.) One of the most important parts of Christianity to me is the worship of God. No matter the form, giving your 100% attention, devotion, and expression to God is IT. Because of the sabbatical I was no longer able to "offer my gifts to the Lord", outside of in my own living room (with the stereo blaring - I'm an accompanist, after all). My friends Tony and Mike allowed me the opportunity to occasionally join them in worship on their music team. It is because of their openness, and their love of worship, that I had the opportunity to be with them during that time. I'm so thankful for that outlet. I'm hoping 2016 provides many more opportunities for such musical collaboration with them.

And lastly, I want to share how thankful I am for my father. He turned 80 years old this year, and you wouldn't know it if you met him. He is energetic and full of life. He will converse with you on almost any topic, has close friends that he spends a lot of time laughing with (which may be THE reason you wouldn't be able to guess his age), and LOVES my mother - a marriage that has lasted over 50 years (a lofty goal for any today). Some of my favorite moments have been sitting at a table, enjoying a cup of coffee, laughing and talking with this man of men. My wife and I throw him carpentry projects that he puts more effort into than most "working stiffs"; partly to keep him busy, and partly because I'm so incompetent with my hands! There is no finer man I know.

As you finish off the last of the eggnog this Christmas, make sure you take a moment to let those you love know how important they are to you. And you don't need to write a blog to do it!

Merry Christmas!


© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Science is Settled

No, the title of this blog is not intended as "click bait". In January of 2014, our own President Obama declared that the debate over climate change was settled: "Climate change is a fact."

The purpose of this particular post is not to argue for or against man-made climate change. I've done that before. What I'm hoping to convey is how important mankind may or may not be, and the impact - or lack thereof - mankind has upon the world around him.

(I follow the old-school grammar of using "he" and "him" when referencing humankind in general. I don't mean to come off as sexist. Women fit in the generalizations I will be addressing just as much.)

I was reading an article recently that was discussing man-made earthquakes. What? Really? Yes. Really. The article referenced such things as the Hoover Dam (the water pressure), years of oil and natural gas extraction, and the recent hot topic of fracking, as being influential if not directly the cause of earthquakes. Various studies have taken place over decades, with mounds and mounds of data collected concerning seismic activity. And you know what? With all of the data, with all of the experts, the decision was made: Actually, there has been no decision. There are those on both sides using the same data to make their argument. The science is NOT settled.

Of course, with climate change, with much more data from many more sources, the science is settled. At least that is what Climatologist Barack Obama said. And he's not alone. In the recent Paris Climate Summit, a bunch of climatologists (a.k.a. "politicians") got together and said that man-made climate change was settled science, and made an agreement that hopes to aggressively curb the hotbed that the earth has become (sarcasm font).

What do earthquakes and climate have in common? Man's impact - or lack thereof.

On one hand Friedrich Nietzsche stated that "God is Dead". On the other Shirley MacLaine stated that "I am God." Right there is the rub: we want a world without God, so we can sit on the throne AS God. But is that possible?

My fear is not necessarily that we create earthquakes or climate change by our actions. My fear is that our actions to fix things cause more harm because unlike God, our vision is very short-sighted and we miss the long-term impact of the things we do.

I could talk about windmills and their impact upon birds, or solar panels and the amount of reflected light/heat that may be warming the atmosphere, but I'm not. I'm going to give you a little story from my home state of Ohio:

We have a lot of deer here. A lot. I've heard that it is because of all the housing and business development that the deer have been driven from their areas and now are all over the place. That may have something to do with it, but not entirely. The other reason for the deer population growth is deer population growth. For example: for two years in a row we had two fawns in either our yard or our next-door neighbor's yard. Below are pictures of three of them:

That's four additional deer in two years. My neighbor, who (along with one of his kids) is a hunter, has bagged around one a year. That means there are two more deer running around here than originally (not including the parents still running around). I know there are other hunters, but with the limits on where you can hunt (my neighborhood is off-limits, and the deer apparently KNOW that!) and the number you can actually kill, the population is exploding.

So what did the wise leaders in Ohio do? They changed the hunting laws? Nope! Not humane enough. They brought in a natural predator: coyotes.

Let's see how well that worked out.

The coyotes have NO natural predator in Ohio thinning them out. So, we are now overrun with coyotes (see my blog). But at least the deer have been thinned out, right? Nope! The coyotes would rather go after cats and small dogs than after big deer that run too fast. So now we have both: deer AND coyotes.

When it comes to man-made climate change, the thing that scares me more than the loss of oceanfront property is the damage that man MAY do by trying to fix it.

Well, at least one thing removes my fear: the science is settled.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

And You're Praying Why?!?

Part of the hoopla in the wake of last week's horrible shooting in San Bernardino, CA, surrounded the front page of the New York Daily News on December 3:

Along with the headline are Twitter posts from various politicians, calling for - or acknowledging self - prayer for the victims and their families. This has caused quite a stir on both sides of the religious / non-religious aisle.

Does God answer prayer?

Where IS God when tragedies occur?

How can God allow a person to kill so many innocents - even in the name of religion?

Do I believe God answers prayer? Yes, yes I do. Does He answer ALL prayers? No, no He doesn’t. And to be honest, I'm thrilled that He doesn't!

Several years ago I gave a talk to a men's breakfast group at church (give a man bacon, and he'll listen to anything!) where I covered such topics as time, eternity, finite and infinite, free will versus predestination, and where we and God stand on such things.  If you are interested, you can read it here, but be aware - it's a bit long. I gave an example by asking if someone had a swimming pool. I then asked that person to go home, cup his hands, and have someone pour the contents of that pool into his hands. That is an example of Finite trying to grasp Infinite. Oh, we get little droplets, but even as we think we grasp them, they simply wash away as we try to grasp more.

I bring that up, because it would be pretty awful for an infinitely omniscient (all knowing) God to have to cow-tow to the wishes and whims of finite man. I, for one, don't want a God who sits waiting for me to tell Him what to do. And if you are a man who believes God should, I want to know one thing: How is it possible for you to walk with cajones that big? (I'm talking to you, Word and Faith charismatics!)

My question is, HOW should God be "fixing this"? What, exactly, do you want God to do? (Before you answer that, read the last two paragraph above again!)

There is only one thing that I can think of for God to do, that will prevent people from killing other people. But I have to warn you: you won't like it. The only thing God can do is to eliminate your free will. Again, feel free to take (several) moments to read that post-bacon talk I gave mentioned above to understand free will and predestination.

Now, notice I didn't say for God to eliminate THEIR free will. If God were to forcibly stop ANYONE from functioning in free will, the ability for anyone to function in free will would immediately cease. You have trouble with predestination now, wait until God stops allowing even one person to function of their own accord.

In order for God to prevent people from committing such heinous crimes, He would need to eliminate free will from mankind. That means you would NO LONGER be able to function of your own volition. Like a remote-controlled car, you would only move via the DIRECT control of someone else (in this case, God.) Only then would people no longer be able to commit crimes. Or do good deeds. Or take care of their children. Or watch the Cleveland Browns win multiple Super Bowls.

Or even one . . .

One of the prayers God DOES answer is provide wisdom to those who seek it (see James 1:5 in the bible). And wisdom is something we all need.

The ability to ACT on that wisdom is another thing. Known as "free will".

© Emittravel 2015