Drone (DOP #23 2017)

(#23 of 25 days of Peace-2017)
As a race humanity has some unique characteristics.  While we aren’t the only species to use tools, we are certainly a species that has truly mastered tool use.   While otters have their favorite rock, and scientists have declared that chimps and monkeys are living in the stone age, the genus Homo has most fully learned to use tools.

When we use tools, we open up new worlds of possibility.  A hammer brought forth the possibility of the home you may live in today.  A knife allows a human to pre-digest their food, cutting it into smaller sections to aid in digestion.  When we began to tame fire, we again made our own process of digestion easier.  The invention of gunpowder, led to the rifle, which made harvesting game to eat even easier.  Each tool has opened up new possibilities for the human race to survive.

This knowledge comes at a price, however.  Or perhaps I should say this knowledge comes with a choice.  The tools we use in our daily lives, can so often be used to destroy possibility as they can be used to create it.  In fact, each tool I named above can be easily used to kill another human, to snuff out the possibilities that exist in that person.  We live in a world where our power grows daily, as new tools are developed that allow us to bring forth new life, or new death.  These tools can bring peace, or they can take it away.

So do we bring the ban hammer down on, well, hammers?  Or do we accept the inherent risk of the hammer, to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity presented to us by it?  That decision has already been made in history.  We know that the good of the hammer will outweigh the bad if we as a society teach young children that it is wrong to use the hammer for evil.  The decision has already been made for the hammer, but there are new tools being invented every day, for which this type of decision will need to be made by society.

I have recently begun using a new tool that has opened up an entire new set of possibilities for me, but that also has a terrible destructive potential.  This tool can help find a lost hiker in the woods, or it can be used to spy on your sunbathing neighbor.  This tool can be used to deliver medicines to remote villages, or it can be used to deliver guided munitions in a precision strike.  This tool can be used to study fragile habitats, or used to destroy them.

I’m speaking about my sUAV, more commonly known as a drone.

I’ve never used a more polarizing camera tool in my life.  I’ve upset people by even bringing it in to a shoot, I’ve had it taken away in an airport, and I’ve had to take the most difficult test I’ve taken since high school in order to use one commercially.  I had to spend more time learning how to use one in a lawful and safe way than I had to spend to acquire my concealed carry permit for a handgun.  (That should probably be telling us something, by the way.)

Drones are an incredible tool, and they have been used in disaster response to deliver medicines, save lives, find sinking refugee ships at sea.  They open up new perspectives on our planet, and even beyond, as the Cassini mission shows us.  We have drones on the surface of Mars, places where humanity is unwilling or unable to go.  Through the use of this powerful tool, humanity has extended it’s reach beyond itself, to entirely new places.  One drone has even become the first man made object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. (Here’s looking at you V’ger!)

Drones have brought tremendous potential to humanity, but there are those who have taken this tool and perverted it.

Most people first heard the term drone in reference to ‘drone strikes’ being carried out by the United States government.  Large drones (the size of a small plane, not the little quadcopters you most often see in the U.S.) carry ordinance to a target, and attack it from above.  Currently these actions are controlled by a human, sitting in a control room some distance away, but there are those that seek to make this targeting and attacking process autonomous.  I’ve written on this subject previously here.  Other drones have been used by perverted individuals to spy on others, and I’ve seen videos of women being directly harassed by a perverted individual bent on using this tool to destroy instead of create.

I hesitated for a long time over the word pervert.  It is an ugly word, describing an ugly situation.  I choose to use it, because I want society to recognize these uses of drone technology as a perversion of it’s potential.  I want society to see that brave new technology should not come with a loss of personal freedoms, or a loss of life.   A person who uses technology to harm others is a pervert.  They have taken the glorious potential of a technology and twisted it for their own purposes.

The only way to ensure that new technology is used in a positive way is to put societal pressure on those who would do otherwise.  We, as a society, have a choice about how new technology is used, and those of us who are seeking peace can not be silent as the world around us attempts to pervert and exploit those who have no voice.  So stand up for those killed by the military’s use of drones, stand up for those whose privacy has been invaded, for those who have been sexually assaulted by a pervert with a remote control.  Encourage strong punishments for those who use technology improperly, including our own government.

End drone warfare.  Stop the perversion of technology.

Peace demands it.

Underdog (DOP #22 2017)

(#22 of 25 – 2017)
Everybody loves a good underdog story.

When I see a film or watch a TV show that features an underdog, I am silently rooting for the underdog.  While I’m not much of a sports fan, I nearly always root for the underdog in the competitions I happen to watch.  An underdog is loosely defined as the person or team who is predicted and expected to lose.  The Jamaican bobsled team is an example of this, as they were from a tropical country, and had no experience or funding to compete at the Olympic level.  The movie Cool Runnings portrays this adventure in a bit of a romanticized way, but ultimately the Jamaican bobsledders did achieve at least some success in future Olympic contests.

We have a soft spot for the underdog, and often, we relish the opportunity to see the underdog defeat the dominant team in a sport.  We feel as though the dominant team secretly deserved the loss, and it gives us hope that we can one day beat those who hold dominion over us in the same way.   We glory in the knowledge that sometimes the best equipment, coaches, and players that money can buy can be defeated by a team with heart and just a little luck.

Underdog stories are popular during war time as well.  We read of Audie Murphy who held off a German advance single-handedly for hours.  We celebrate Alvin York who single-handedly captured more than 100 opposition soldiers.  We remember hundreds of men and women who fought with great heart against all odds to win the day for their comrades in arms.

So what does that mean when your country has the strongest military force in the world?

When the underdog loses, it is no surprise, they were predicted and expected to lose, and the glory of the victor is somehow less than the underdog would have received had they won.  Yeah, the victors still win, but the glory of the victory is lost in the inevitability of the win.  Of course they were going to win, they spent nearly 10x as much on player contracts this year as the underdog.

So what does it mean, when your country can assault nearly anyone, anywhere without even putting it’s own soldiers at risk?

What does it mean when your country literally spends more on its defense than the 8 other leading countries combined?  
What does it mean, when your country can take on any other country in the world and win, immediately, according to the numbers?

I love the freedoms that I have been granted here in the United States, and I understand that freedom is not free, but purchased through struggle and sacrifice.  I also understand that war was never intended to be fair, and never will be, but can we take some time for self reflection here?

How can we claim to be a nation of peace, when we are clearly preparing for war?

When will the underdog come for us?  After all, every dog has his day.

Jesus, Refugee. (DOP #21 2017)

According to Wikipedia, a refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely.

The world is full of refugees right now.  In fact, right now, 152 million (152,000,000) people are considered refugees.   There are more refugees on our planet right now, than people living in Russia, the 9th most populated country in the world.   That means that if we treated refugees as a nation of their own, they would bump Russia down to the 10th most populated country.

This blows my mind.  So many people are living without a safe place to call home, right now.

Of course this is a big deal, and you’ve been hearing about it on the news for years, but each year, instead of getting better, the situation gets worse.

I could continue to hit us all over the head with stats and figures about how serious the situation is for the world right now, but it seems like it isn’t really doing any good, since I know that the news is reporting these stats regularly, and the situation continues to get worse.

So instead, I’ll point you to Matthew 2:13–23.

In this passage you will find that Jesus himself became a refugee.  He had to flee the country he was born in, and live in Egypt in order to be safe from an evil government bent on destroying him.  Jesus, born a Hebrew, returned to Egypt, the land of his peoples enslavement to escape death.

Perhaps you’ll argue that Jesus is a special situation, since he is the son of God.

May I point you to the Pilgrims?

You do realize they were refugees, right?  They were fleeing religious persecution in their own country, and fled to the Americas to find the freedom to worship they were seeking.  Many of us in the United States today would not be here if it were not for the Pilgrims, and others like them who fled their governments and established themselves in a new place that welcomed them.

The refugee crisis is complex, and terrifically hard to understand, and frankly I don’t have any new answers to these questions.  Luckily, we don’t need new answers.

Matthew 25:31-46 says this.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The word stranger can be translated as refugee, or ‘other’.  Someone not like us.  I hope that when it is my turn to be judged, I am found on the side of the refugee, but it is not enough for me to just hope.  I must take action.

Now excuse me while I wrestle with what this must mean to me in MY life.

Home at Last (DOP #20 2017)

concluded from previous…

Home I

Home II

I had made some pretty crazy choices in the months leading up to getting the bus, but I knew that I hadn’t changed enough.  It wasn’t enough to simply buy a bus, I had to take some sort of action to ensure that it wouldn’t just become another project that gets pushed to the side and never finished.  If I wanted a home, I couldn’t stop pursuing it yet.  So as October drew to a close and the end of the year drew near, I contemplated doing something a bit crazy again.

Remember the girl I mentioned in the previous post?  Well, while I was trying to change my own life, God had plans of his own.  I had been a terrible boyfriend in a previous long term relationship, and when that relationship finally ended, I was pretty much resolved to go it alone from then on.  I had held on for so long in hopes that I could make it work, that I could be different than I was, but it wasn’t until I finally burnt that relational bridge that I felt any peace about it.  Once I had committed to a new way of life, little things in my life began to change.  Addictions that had held me for decades fell away overnight.  I still wasn’t happy, and I still wasn’t healthy, but I had finally been turned around and set on a new path.  I resolved to be single, as I didn’t trust myself to be more than that.

The girl in the previous post is now my fiance.  God had his own plans.

In November, we started going on dates.  On December 14th, I started an account to save for a ring.  On December 24th I asked her to officially be my girlfriend, and on December 28th I moved out of my apartment.

I moved into my truck.

Somehow, I had felt that God was going to teach me something, and that he needed me to be homeless in order to accomplish it.  So, more because it sounded like a great adventure than a desire to be obedient, I moved out of my apartment.  I burned the bridge to the only place I had ever lived on my own.  I spent the first few weeks in my cargo trailer with a propane heater and my 0 degree sleeping bag.  After getting ice rained inside of it in a Menards parking lot a few weeks later, I chose to abandon the trailer and move into the truck.  I showered every couple of days at a 24 hour gym, doing my best to avoid suspicion as I headed straight for the shower each time I got there.  I ate far too much fast food in this past year, and I learned to stash snacks in my truck.  I woke up many mornings in a new place, and occasionally didn’t remember where I was, or what I was doing there.  I sweated through the heat of summer and shivered through the cold of winter.

It is December 28th today.  I’ve lived in my truck for over a year.

I have learned so much.  I now know more fully what a home is, and I am more convinced than ever that it has nothing to do with 4 walls, a shower, and a roof.   Home is not a building.  Home is not a place.  Home is where you find peace.  Home is where you go when everything else is falling apart and you are afraid that you’ll never find peace again.

For me, home is where Samantha is.  I’ve found in her someone who has accepted that I am more than a bit odd.  She has accepted that sometimes I do crazy things.  When I told her I was buying a bus on our very first date, and she didn’t refuse to return my messages, I knew that I had found someone special.  When I told her that just days after we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend that I would be moving out, she accepted it and loved me in spite of it.  I find more peace with her than I have found with any other person in my life.  Home is not a place, it is the people in it.  Your home can be church, school, work, or any number of other places if you find peace there.

Now that a year has passed, I’ve given up my wandering ways, and I will be moving in to a rental home in a few weeks.  I’ll live there in that house until Samantha comes to join me in roughly 4 months, and together we will make it a home.  God has brought to me something I could not find on my own.  Peace.

To everyone who knew my situation and offered me a place to stay, I am sooooo grateful for you.  I appreciate everyone who offered me comfort, even if I didn’t accept it.  To everyone I drove crazy by my choice, thank you for living through it, and just know that it wasn’t something you did that caused me to refuse your hospitality.  I felt compelled to follow the call of God in my life.

I’m sure that as time passes I will write more about this subject, as I do feel like I have learned quite a lot from it.  Specifically, I’ve learned a lot about the cycle of poverty that can grab people in this situation, and how you really can’t just grab yourself by the bootstraps and pull yourself up.  More on that later.  Subscribe to the blog if you don’t want to risk missing these future posts.

Home II (DOP #19 2017)

…continued from previous post.

In my quest to find some sort of peace with my place in life, I began to seek out adventure.  I have been an off and on runner for quite a few years now, and while I had been running, I decided to try new trails, and make adventures out of my weekends.  I drove up to Michigan to run 17 miles, and basked in the glory of getting out of my own town, and out of my own head.  The more time I spent pursuing something that I had considered out of my reach, the more I found enjoyment in what I was doing.

I guess I may have gone a bit too far, because it was during this period that a friend showed me an auction site used by government agencies to sell public property.  I signed up for an account, and with my very first bid won something a bit bigger than I expected to win.

I won a 2002 Thomas school bus.

The bus was in Washington D.C.

I had 7 days to pick it up.

So I flew to Washington D.C. and endeavored to drove the bus back to Ohio.  It was probably one of the more crazy things I think I have ever done, and it was certainly way out of my comfort zone.  I had never driven a vehicle that big before, and I had bought it on the internet, with no chance to inspect it or even determine if it would start when I got there.  I took a HUGE risk and I really had no way to know how it would turn out.

The night before I flew out, I met a girl at a Wal-Mart to show her a cool quarry I had taken a picture of on a previous adventure, and we ended up getting coffee afterwords.   We talked for several hours, and then I had to take another huge risk and tell her where I was going the next day.  This was also something that was totally outside of my comfort zone.  It really turned out that October 2016 was a fateful October.

To make the long story short, I spent the next four days getting the bus back to Ohio.  It was an adventure I hope I never forget, driving through the fall leaves in the mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  When I finally made it home, I was exhausted but excited.

I had bought the bus in hopes of turning it into an RV.  A mobile home.  Somewhere to call my own.  I had no peace in the apartment, and I was seeking something new and fulfilling.  I was seeking a home.

Home is a word we throw around a lot, but I really do believe that ‘home’ is essential to peace.  Having a place to call home can be the difference between hopeful and hopeless.  Many who live in a house don’t truly have a home, and many who have no house, can have a happy home.  Home is a place that you feel safe, a place that you find love, a place that is filled with peace.

Maybe your home doesn’t look like this, or at least it doesn’t right now, but I encourage you to identify those things in your life that are preventing you from being at peace, and work to change them.  I knew that I wasn’t at peace where I was, and I started trying things I had never tried before to change where I was.  I chose to seek a new way where my old way was not working.  Sometimes finding peace means making a scary and drastic change.

To be concluded…

If you missed the daily vlogs, I’ve compiled them all here AND fixed whatever sync issue I had with the audio.  Enjoy!