Google+ Badge

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

43 Minute Botched Execution Is "Cruel, Unusual"

The death penalty -- controversial ground to say the least. At this time, thirty-two U.S. states have the death penalty, as does the U.S. government and the U.S. military. No matter what your belief in capital punishment, when you read reports like the following, you realize the potential barbarity of execution. Part of the newest problem with quick, efficient executions? States that have capital punishment have been forced to find new drugs to use since European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions.

This is the case in Oklahoma. It used a three-drug cocktail for execution Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The three drugs administered were as follows:

1. Midazolam, a drug generally used for children before medical procedures or before anesthesia for surgery to cause drowsiness, relieve anxiety, and prevent any memory of the event. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the drug may cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems, so a child should only receive it "in a hospital or doctor's office that has the equipment that is needed to monitor his or her heart and lungs and to provide life-saving medical treatment quickly if his or her breathing slows or stops."

2. Vecuronium bromide, a drug used to stop respiration, and

3. Potassium chloride, a drug used to stop the heart.

To administer the drugs, two intravenous lines were inserted, one in each arm of the convict. The drugs were then injected by hand-held syringes simultaneously into the two intravenous lines. The sequence of administrations was in the order that the drugs are listed above. Three executioners were utilized, with each one injecting one of the drugs."

The execution on Tuesday was the first time Oklahoma used midazolam as the first element in its three-drug cocktail. 

The Death of Clayton Lockett

Read this brief summary of the botched execution in Oklahoma. This is the gruesome story of the death of Clayton Lockett, who was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery.

"Lockett lived for 43 minutes Tuesday after being administered the first drug in a cocktail that was meant to kill him, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. He convulsed and writhed on the gurney. Managing to raise his head, he got out the words 'Man,' 'I'm not,' and 'something's wrong,' reporter Courtney Francisco of KFOR said. Then the blinds were closed, and witnesses could not see what took place after that.

"Other reporters, including Cary Aspinwall of the Tulsa World newspaper, also said Lockett was still alive and lifted his head while prison officials lowered the blinds so onlookers couldn't see what was going on.

"Dean Sanderford, Lockett's attorney, said his client's body 'started to twitch,' and then 'the convulsing got worse. It looked like his whole upper body was trying to lift off the gurney. For a minute, there was chaos.'

"Sanderford said guards ordered him out of the witness area, and he was never told what had happened to Lockett.

"After administering the first of three drugs, 'We began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol,' said Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton. 'There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect. So the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown.' He added that Lockett's vein had 'exploded.'

"After the ordeal, Patton told reporters that Lockett was sedated and then given the second and third drugs in the protocol. He died of a heart attack, Patton added.

"The office of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement saying that 'execution officials said Lockett remained unconscious after the lethal injection drugs were administered.'

"The state halted the execution of another inmate, Charles Warner, which was scheduled for later in the day. 'I notified the attorney general's office, the governor's office of my intent to stop the execution and requested a stay for 14 days,' said Patton."

 (Ed Payne, Josh Levs, and Greg Botelho. "Oklahoma's botched lethal injection starts new front in battle over executions." CNN. April 30, 2014)

The Eighth Amendment states: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." As far back as 1787, the Supreme Court commented that drawing and quartering, public dissection, burning alive, or disembowelment constituted cruel and unusual punishment."

Criteria For Execution

In 1972, Furman v. Georgia, Justice Brennan wrote, "There are, then, four principles by which we (The Supreme Court) may determine whether a particular punishment is 'cruel and unusual.'" One of these principles stated that the "essential predicate" is "that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity," especially torture.

The most common method for execution since 1976 has been lethal injection. Some states also allow electrocution, firing squad, hanging, and lethal gas. 

In 2008, Michael Portillo on the show Horizon determined that in ensuring an execution is not of a cruel and unusual nature, the following criteria must be met:
  • Death should be quick and painless death to prevent suffering for the person being executed.
  • Medical education should be provided to the executioner to prevent suffering caused by error.
  • The death should not be gory (to prevent suffering for those carrying out the execution).
  • No co-operation should be required from the person being executed, to prevent inaction, distress, and/or suffering caused by the prisoner being required to participate in his own execution.
It is evident the three-drug cocktail used to execute Clayton Lockett this week was "cruel and unusual." It amazes me how an untried method of execution can be administered without better research as to the drugs' immediate effects and their ability to inflict torturous death. I mean, even if we have to get the animal rights advocates fired up, I believe we must test these methods on monkeys or other animals before we inject them into human to exact execution.

Many even say a better method exists. To some scientists, Hypoxia appears to meet the criteria, by way of applying a combination of the gases Argon and Nitrogen, as the person being executed would not feel any physical pain but would experience a euphoric state. It was further determined that these gases could be applied cheaply and efficiently by restraining the prisoner by way of physical restraints and mask.


I guess even an efficient firing squad would quicken the death and reduce the pain and suffering of an inmate. Of course, the image of bullets, blood, and gore make this graphic form of execution appear to be more "cruel and unusual" to many.

I, for one, will never forget the reports of the execution of Clayton Lockett. He was a victim of an ugly, botched chemical injection that only those bent on seeking revenge through extreme suffering could justify to be a necessary means to justice.

A state execution is no time to risk the necessary sanctity involved in taking a human life in retribution. Lockett was judged to have committed horrible, unthinkable crimes. He may have deserved to be put to death; however, any state entity that commits unnecessary cruelty does not live by the creed of the United States Constitution or by the beliefs of a Christian nation. 

“But secondly you say 'society must exact vengeance, 
and society must punish'. Wrong on both counts. 
Vengeance comes from the individual and punishment from God.” 

 --Victor Hugo

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"The Email Conspiracy": Latest Episode of Portsmouth City Council at War

We have grown to love that zany crew. Good old Portsmouth City Council: it's always good for more laughs than an episode of the Andy Griffith Show dealing with the fictional politics in Mayberry. Our cast of Portsmouth characters is now fighting about email. They are involved in a riveting, modern drama pitting the privacy of personal, instant electronic mail against the government's interest in preventing sabotage and collusion.

The plot is skillfully wrought with intrigue, politics, and personal gain. The theme is a well-used combination of motifs -- "Button, button, who's got the button?" and "What, me worry?" The mood is tense and filled with comic relief. Who knew email could build such insightful messages about local politics.

Oh, friends, it's a complicated story with many twists and turns that pits proponents of partisan politics through email messaging against minority factions bent on doing things "the old way." The cast of characters includes many seasoned veterans of past City Council fracases who turn in predictable, but spirited performances. The development is stunningly complicated by the actors who drive the rising action to a fitting climax of discontent and "business as usual."

I will try to relate the story, but, as usual, the politics and the hyperbole makes fact-finding difficult.  I must credit the Portsmouth Daily Times with two reports that allow me to interpret the action. Read them for yourself here: (1) Council members discuss legislation in emails. (2) Solicitor and city manager go on offensive on issue of emails.

You know Council -- they just love to scrap over personal matters more than Ernest T. Bass, the obstreperous, rock-throwing, mountain man on the Griffith show. I can hear him now with his usual greeting that foreshadowed impending trouble: "Howdy do to you and you. It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T.!" This invariably means trouble for Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife. And, it seems there is trouble with a capital "T" brewing right here in River City.

I will skip the exposition -- the background of setting, character, and past conflict -- to devote this blog entry to the latest episode of Portsmouth City Council at War fittingly titled "The Email Conspiracy."

"The Email Conspiracy"

1.  This conflict begins with political emails about changing the positions of City Solicitor and City Auditor and about an election dealing with a charter amendment rescinding Sections 87 and 89.

"Portsmouth Mayor (Sixth Ward Councilman) Steve Sturgill and Vice-Mayor (First Ward Councilman) Kevin W. Johnson exchanged a series of emails (at least two, and possibly three) discussing changing the positions of city solicitor (City Attorney) and city auditor (City Treasurer) from elected to hired by city council and a charter amendment rescinding Sections 87 and 89 which deal with the staffing levels in the police department and the fire department respectively.

"Placing the two Charter amendments before city voters in November, essentially, if passed, would remove election by the voters for the positions of City Solicitor and City Auditor from the Charter, and change those titles to City Attorney and City Treasurer, respectively.

"In addition, Charter amendments would be proposed to remove the staffing levels of the Portsmouth Police Department and the Portsmouth Fire Department. The staffing levels, by city voters, are currently set at 44 each for a total of 88 employees in the two departments."

2. The emails were discovered by the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 512.

"The emails came to light when Tony Hamilton, president of IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 512, made a Freedom of Information request through the office of City Clerk Diana Ratliff and the Daily Times made a similar request for the same information. Ratliff provided the emails to the Times."

3. The emails deal with Good Old Boy political finagling and in-fighting: the Triumvirate of Kevin W. Johnson, Gene Meadows, Steve Sturgill, tag-teaming against the duo of Jim Kalb and Rich Saddler (Whose inclusion is debated.)

"The e-mails content included communication about attempting to keep Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Kalb out of the discussion until the 'last minute,' but to attempt to involve Fifth Ward Council Gene Meadows for help in legal wording since Meadows is an attorney.

"In an email to Sturgill and Meadows dated 5:56 p.m. April 12, 2014, under the topic 'Council,' Johnson writes: '(Third Ward Councilman) Kevin E. Johnson is on the fence. Could one of you talk with him? Steve, you are talking with Jim Kalb; please let us know how that goes. Otherwise, we have four (4) firm votes; we three and Rich Saddler (per Steve earlier). A problem could occur should we not have more than four as I shall be in (redacted for privacy purposes)…'”

4. Johnson says the intention of organizing the e-mail Council support is to "not surprise unions" -- specifically AFSCME, FOP and IAFF, so the amendments appear to be for the good of city management and for the benefit of the budget.

"Then under the topic 'Unions,' Johnson writes - 'Good politics suggests that one should never ‘surprise’ unions; anymore than we enjoy being ‘surprised.’ In the second week of May one or more of us should talk with (Fire) Chief (Bill) Raison, (Police) Chief (Robert) Ware and the presidents of AFSCME, FOP and IAFF. The purpose is to emphasize that these amendments are being proposed in order to bring sense to our budget, ensure we are not placed in Fiscal Emergency and fiscally taken over by the State Auditor’s office (and these people know what Scioto County went through), and to consolidate management operational responsibility and accountability.'"

5. Johnson, it seems on his own, has already secured a treasurer for the campaign and fund raising in support of the amendments.

"Johnson goes on to say he has secured a treasurer for 'whatever campaign committee is established.' The email goes on to say that the person is on board for fund raising. He says his goal is to raise between $8,000 and $10,000."

6. Kalb claims he's been kept in the dark about all the changes, and he believes his opinion doesn't matter because the email content is a "done deal" without proper discussion in Council sessions.

"On April 22 Sturgill sends Kalb an email asking for his thoughts on the proposal.

“'At this point it appears that my thoughts don’t matter much anyway as preliminary legislation has already been prepared, without my input,' Kalb responded. 'I always thought that it was ‘discussion’ first, then ‘action’ taken on the results of the discussion.'”

7. The inquisitive Kalb emails Sadler to inquire whether Sadler knew anything about the plans for the election.

"Within minutes, Kalb sends an email to Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler - 'I was wondering if you were aware of these plans being laid out by three Council members for the November election. Call me if you have questions or some answers.'”

8. Sadler denies any knowledge of the four-person block for power (that Johnson says included him) and claims "everything seems to be a big secret" when it comes to Council and sharing ideas.

“'Hmmm nope! Steve did ask me once after a meeting what I thought about putting the auditor and solicitor under Derek, about two months ago. I told him Council would need to discuss it but I wouldn’t be totally against it. This conversation took about 2 minutes but that is all I’ve been privy to,' Saddler responded."

“'I don’t hear anything from anybody anymore, except you. Hell, Derek won’t even reply to an email when I’ve had a complaint about a water leak last week. I’m to the point I’m just doing my thing and the hell with the rest of it. When I first got on Council we all shared ideas and information. It’s not that way now, everything seems to be a big secret.'”

9. Fast forward to the next Council Meeting. City Solicitor John Haas claims he can't represent Council in an attempt to "do away" with his own office.

"Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas says he cannot represent Portsmouth City Council when it comes to public records requests in the future. He says, 'Council has placed my office in an untenable position. I cannot assist council on public records requests because the subject of the requests deals with an attempt to do away with my office and place the city’s legal counsel under the control and power of city council.'"

10. Haas accuses several members of Council of acting criminally with their many email correspondences: violating Ohio Open Meetings Act, the destruction of public records in violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, the refusal to comply with a Public Records Request, and violating the city charter.

Haas comments to Council:

“'As the solicitor for the city of Portsmouth, I believe it’s my obligation to represent the interests of the citizens of Portsmouth first and foremost,' Haas said. 'Normally that’s my obligation, and my obligation to advise city council align and aren’t the source of any consternation on my part. However, I will say that the recent actions by several members of Portsmouth City council in holding meetings in violation of the Ohio Open Meetings Act, the destruction of public records in violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, the refusal to comply with a Public Records Request, violated the charter by meeting with department heads and employees, in some instances without the knowledge of the city manager and in other instances in direct conflict with requests by the city manager not to do so, has created a situation and I have witnessed the destruction of the city manager’s credibility within the ranks of the city employees.'”

11. In one of his lighter comments, as if mistrust has ever gone away, Haas also charges that the clandestine emails have "renewed" a lack of trust in Council and "hampered day-to-day management of the city."

"'Haas said further that he believes the circulation of emails that were passed back and forth between members of council has renewed a lack of trust of city council, which he said he believed, prior to the action, was 'on the mend.' Haas said what he termed 'the secret actions of Council' that came to light in the 100-plus pages of emails provided thus far in response to the public records requests have accomplished two major points. Haas said it is his opinion city council has hampered the day-to-day management of the city.

"Both Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler and Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson offered a vote of confidence for the job Allen has done since coming on board four months ago."

12. In the madness, confusion, and back-biting, Sturgill and Kevin W. Johnson choose to remain stone faced and silent.

"Sturgill and Kevin W. Johnson made no comments on the topic during the meeting."

There you have it, folks. The latest episode of Portsmouth City Council at War. This email fracas is not over, I can assure you. Perhaps damning phone calls and text messages are the next revelations to hit the floor of city hall. This controversy promises to provide an intriguing series of new episodes sure to distract attention from the real business of the elected officials. But, this new controversy is sure to wag tongues and draw lines of contention -- the kind of stuff we all have come to love in P Town. I wonder how Sheriff Andy Taylor would fix all of this?

P.S. -- Don't ask me for any verification of the reports in this blog. I know nothing but an outsider's view based on scant research Still, I do continue to rejoice that I know my weekly trash collection day is Wednesday. Emails, amendments, and position changes interest me about as much as attending a session of City Council. If you have never been, try attending one. Does "cut and dried" apply to more than pressed flowers? Sorry for the lapse of reason... oh, hell... no, I'm not.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Enabling "Blamer" Parents Create Enabling "Blamer" Children

We are losing a great human resource in America. Many of the humble, hard-working, noble poor have morphed into unhappy, vindictive "blamers" bent on finding excuses for their discontent. At one time the majority of these folks found appreciation and love in the comfort of living within their means and within their limited luxuries. So many then discovered that simple things (Trust me, I'm not using this as a cliche.) provide lasting satisfaction.

Now, when the poor find themselves deprived of "the latest" and the "extravagant" choice, they take the bait of artificial materialism and swallow in painful gulps of indulged envy. They become hooked on expecting unaffordable possessions to substitute for affordable initiative.

Today, so many poor parents enable their children to become blamers. They, often unknowingly, teach their offspring to use strategies of attack and accusation to get what they want, not necessarily what they need. Guilty loved ones enable their "high-living-deprived children" to keep up with the wealthy as if expensive clothes, toys, and other expensive non-essentials will instill virtues with their instantaneous satisfaction. Ironically, they become haters of the rich who feel they must keep up with the rich. Go figure and I believe you will see their belief that the lack of respect is directly tied to the lack of possessions.

Enabling children not only falsifies their understandings of meaningful values but also encourages them to become covetous, impatient, and unappreciative human beings. Make no mistake -- children learn early on how to manipulate parents' feelings of guilt with dramatic complaints of deprivation.

Moms and dads quickly find it easier to cave to their offspring's insistent pleas of mistreatment due to uncontrolled circumstance than to extol any value in the reality of frugal living. As parents consistently reward bogus "desperate" imploring behaviors, habits develop and the stimulus/response solidifies. The result? Caretakers give youngsters what they want, not what they need. They enable future enablers. The cycle has been apparent for many, many years.

It is my view that children crave and need direction. It may be the last thing a teenager would admit, but the heart often does not speak through the lips. To me, proper love does not entail giving, giving, and giving to satisfy every desire of a child who wants more. What many parents think is "good parenting" through absolute devotion to gifting and catering serves to mask the child's most important asset of building honest individuality.

Helping is doing something for someone else that they are unable to do for themselves. Helping is admirable and essential for survival. Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves. It is fraught with complications that can last indefinitely. Enabled young people are at risk, as they lack knowledge of essential responsibility.

Society tells us that a “good” mother or father gives their children everything they themselves never had. Imagine the strain on poor parents without resources who want to optimize the life of their child and view every opportunity to raise the child's status as "helping." Without proper understanding of how help involves responsibilities and consequences in choosing its acceptance, a young person develops an attitude that he/she is due unrestricted help of any kind without a "thank you" or without a commitment.

Too much of this enabling creates an intolerable, ungrateful, lazy, young adult who finds scapegoats for every denial of whim. This kid loses all credibility as he/she grows up in a parasitic relationship with overly doting parents. The child doesn't know society values bootstrap success and earned independence. A product of enabling cannot compete with keen opposition cognizant of their liability in a tough, real world.

Young people must be taught to recognize and to accept the responsibilities and consequences of their own choices. Rather than enabling the continuance of unacceptable behaviors to the detriment of everyone involved, parents must stop enabling their children while, instead, helping them in a reciprocal environment. This is a tremendous challenge for poor parents; however, the virtues at risk make teaching earned satisfaction and acceptance of needs vs. wants mandatory.

In addition, parents must employ reinforcement of helping behaviors. Positive reinforcement is doing “nice” things in response to behavior. Simple as that. When loved ones wake up on time in the morning, when they take their siblings to school, when they don't smoke pot on Friday night, when they help make dinner instead of going out for their own fast food, they deserve gracious acknowledgment. Acknowledging good decisions is reward, not enabling.

In my experience as a teacher, a poor child with dignity and a clear belief in virtuous behavior is a diamond in the making. With every success, that child gains the respect of staff and classmates who witness the honesty inherent in their character. In older days, these inspiring students seemed both satisfied with their simple lives and self-driven to accept more and more responsibility. In a nutshell, they were poor, but extremely appreciative of every opportunity to display their work ethic.

Yes, I blame overly enabling parents for failing their children. How else can a person view this? I am not condemning these parents because I certainly am guilty of enabling my own offspring at times. I understand the thin line between wonderful, unconditional love and negative enabling, and I thoroughly understand parents often make mistakes in judgment. After all, we are human beings. Yet, I have too little faith these days in raising youngsters without proper doses of tough love.

Poor, enabled children become poor, enabled adults. They are ill-prepared to accept the fact that the world does not owe them a living or a modicum of respect. The poor who live happy, industrious lives deserve all of our esteem for the dignity of their being. And, these folks should get some well-deserved sympathy from all classes. But, developing an attitude of blame that stems from an enabled life is detrimental to all.

"The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, 
but only to hold a man's foot long enough 
to enable him to put the other somewhat higher." 

 --Thomas Huxley

Helping hands, not enabling hands.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lesson Plans: Lap Dancing With a 15 Year-Old

 Teacher, Felicia Smith

What possibly enters the mind of a middle school teacher who decides to give one of her students a lap dance in front of the class for his 15th birthday? Is she a sex-starved, child-molesting pervert? Is she a deviant with no concept of social norms and proper conduct? Is she warped to the point that she believes her "gift" is some kind of friendly, acceptable behavior for public display of affection?

It beats the hell out of me. Was she teaching a new class called Pedophilia Lap Dance 101?

Felicia Smith, age 42, a 13-year veteran teacher at Stovall Middle School in Houston, Texas, has been charged with having an improper relationship with a student after giving him a birthday lap dance in front of the entire class. Smith posted a $30,000 bond.

The school district placed Smith on paid administrative leave while the case is pending.Video of this unconventional birthday party apparently exists, but has yet to be released into the public domain. It was filmed by an unnamed source. Sources report a copy of the video is on file at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and another copy is with the Aldine ISD Police Department.
video apparently exists of this unconventional birthday party in school, but has yet to be released into the public domain.
Read more at apparently exists of this unconventional birthday party in school, but has yet to be released into the public domain.

According to the male student, “Ms. Smith” grabbed his journal and stopped him from talking to his friends as he walked into his third-period class. He said he sat at his desk, and after the tardy bell rang, she placed a chair in front of the room. Music started playing and the entire class of middle school students began yelling and telling him to sit down. It was his birthday.

The student said he sat down and Ms. Smith gave him a full contact lap dance, rotating her buttocks against him and rubbing her hands all over his body as she fondled him. Ms. Smith also got on her knees in front of him and placed her head between his legs. The student admitted that he slapped Ms. Smith on the buttocks a few times and squeezed her butt.

At the end of the dance, Ms. Smith wrapped her arms around the student and he gave her bottom another squeeze. She hugged him and said “I love you, baby. Happy birthday,” according to documents.

During questioning, Smith admitted that she gave the youngster a lap dance at the urging of his classmates. She says it happened only after the rest of the class convinced her to. She also recalled that she lost her balance a few times as she circled his chair, which made the students laugh. I can only imagine the "laughs" she was getting for her unsightly 42 year-old "bump and grind."

Smith said her performance lasted about four minutes -- the length of the accompanying song. Some reports tell of a public display or erection. When asked if the dance was a misunderstanding or if the allegations were false Smith said, "no comment."

I've read about plenty of sexual encounters between teachers and young students. In addition, I've read about clandestine "love" affairs between staff and students. Yet, I must admit, I have never dreamed that a teacher would openly perform a simulated sex act as entertainment for her class. I can only guess that Felicia Smith must believe she is every boy's ideal sex cougar.

I believe, without a doubt, Smith knew the risks and the consequences of showing herself with such reckless abandon. I wonder if she considered her dance a contorted rite of passage to manhood for the 15 year-old? Or, did she think the lascivious display would endear her to a group of impressionable young people all too familiar with "twerking" and other overly suggestive modern, sensual dances? Or, as many will certainly conclude, was Smith just advertising for a booty call from a viral, testosterone-charged young male?

Jesus, please give us the opportunity and the grace to allow adolescents to develop innocence. There is no smidgen of love or affection in Felicia Smith's present of a lap dance. In doing her egotistical, erotic gyrations, she purposely cheapened herself by playing the role of a prostitute while physically and sexually assaulting a minor student in her class, a student for whom she was charged with the legal responsibility of in loco parentis, ("in the place of a parent")."

Smith violated all her students' civil liberties by acting without proper restraint. In addition, she subjected the entire class to watching an act of simulated sex, which, in itself, will likely leave lasting scars on immature minds. To witness such lewd behavior from a classroom teacher is parallel to forcing the children to view blatant, perverted obscenity.

Felicia Smith evidently suffers from a severe mental malady, and I am certain parents will search for past evidence of her abusive behaviors and now will question how a school district could hire an employee with these tendencies. I imagine she will receive mental health treatment for her illness, but she must be separated from contact with school children ... perhaps forever.

Last, I must wonder about post-secondary education and the wisdom garnered from an education degree that rests inside Smith's brain. Has the liberal acceptance of sexual conduct in major institutions led to the charge of a new revolution against youngsters' Puritan-like behaviors, and thus spurred some instructors to break the barriers of all inhibition in regard to sexual exposure and sexual conduct?

Damn the slide toward complete sexual freedom for youth. Most young people possess Ferrari bodies with Pinto brains. To add fuel to the fires of young risk-taking and instantaneous passion is simply repugnant. It has no place in the wildest conventions of the educational process. Felicia Smith has demonstrated her MILF-advertising intentions in a lustful explosion for all to see.

Call it a misguided, four minute lapse of reason if you wish. I call it trashy, whorish behavior unfit for child consumption. I believe it borders on public rape of an extremely impressionable child. And, it certainly puts a new face on all instructors' concepts of "hot for teacher."


Well, just to top off this little diatribe, I thought I would share some popular lap dancing lyrics with you. I would say "enjoy" but only a person like Felicia Smith might employ this as some kind of enjoyable, instructional aid.

From "Lap Dance" by Tyga

"Benzo, batman, big hoe, lap dance
Ass so fat need a lap dance
Ass so fat I need a lap dance
Benzo, batman, big hoe, lap dance
Ass so fat need a lap dance
Ass so fat I need a lap dance...

"It's raining ass and titties, yeah, ass and titties
If you ain't throwing money, mind your f-cking business
Floss like a dentist, Dennis the menace
Room of crazy n-ggas, probably get a life sentence
Sharper than a tac, attack and bite you bitches
Swagga jack and biting on like you n-ggas
Like conscious rappers, mad cause we winning
Snug long nose call it Scottie Pippen
Ahh, got like 200k large, in the back seat of my car
Like see Alice I go hard, motherf-cker
One, one, two, two bitch what it do? three, four, drop it to the floor
Five, five, six, six, Rub on her tits
Seven, seven, eight, eight, make that ass shake"

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Brown County and Scioto County: Living and Dying With Heroin

In the latest figures from the Ohio Department of Health, Scioto County remained near the top in unintended overdose deaths, just slightly behind Brown County. Both were two times the state average.

"During a recent time span (2007 to 2012), the average crude rate of unintended overdose deaths per 100,000 population showed Brown County at an average of 29.4, 
while Scioto County was at 27.4. Using the same measuring line, the numbers
based on age-adjusted rates showed Brown County with 29.6 and Scioto County at 29.2. 
Both were two times the state average."

(Frank Lewis. "Scioto County Placed 2nd Highest in State Drug-Deaths."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. April 18, 2014)

I thought it might be interesting to profile some traits of the average person in these counties.
The following information about Brown and Scioto counties has been taken from 2010 Census Bureau Statistics. 

Brown County Population

Population: 44,846

The racial makeup of the county was 98.08% White, 0.92% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 0.44% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.

Scioto County Population

Population: 79,499

The racial makeup of the county was 94.88% White, 2.73% Black or African American, 0.63% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.60% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.

Brown County Income

The median income for a household in the county was $38,303, and the median income for a family was $43,040. Males had a median income of $32,647 versus $22,483 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,100. 

About 8.80% of families and 11.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.20% of those under age 18 and 9.40% of those age 65 or over.

Brown County unemployment rate is 23th highest in the state (88 counties) at 8.3% ((Department of Job and Family Services, February, 2014)

Scioto County Income

The median income for a household in the county was $28,008, and the median income for a family was $34,691. Males had a median income of $32,063 versus $21,562 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,408.

About 15.20% of families and 19.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.40% of those under age 18 and 12.80% of those age 65 or over.

Scioto County -- unemployment rate is 8th highest in the state (88 counties) at 10.9% (Department of Job and Family Services, February, 2014)

Brown County Living Conditions

There were 15,555 households out of which 37.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.30% were married couples living together, 10.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.20% were non-families. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.09.

Scioto County Living Conditions

There were 30,871 households out of which 31.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.30% were married couples living together, 13.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.80% were non-families. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.96.

Brown County Crime

Between 2003 and 2008 there were 2,813 total crimes reported in Brown County, Ohio (96 of them violent). Of the 469 crimes that transpire each year in Brown County, just about one half take place less than a mile from home. On average, someone is a victim of a crime in Brown County, Ohio every 18 hours. This includes 2 murders, 25 rapes, and close to two thousand thefts (including 106 automobile thefts). (

Over that period of time, reported crime in Brown County has climbed by 90 per-cent. In the course of that same period, violent crime rose by 96 per-cent. Taken as a whole, the crime rates are a sign of a rapid worsening in crime over the last 6 years in Brown County.

Scioto County Crime

Between 1999 and 2008 there were 30,558 total crimes reported in Scioto County, Ohio (1,704 of them violent). Of the 3,056 crimes that occur a year in Scioto County, almost half happen less than a mile from home. On average, someone is a victim of a crime in Scioto County, Ohio every 2 hours. This includes 28 murders, 229 rapes, and more than twenty-one thousand thefts (including 1,699 motor vehicle thefts). (

Over that interval, reported crime in Scioto County increased by 10 percent. Over that same time frame, violent crime increased by 7 percent. Overall, the crime numbers reveal a gradual increase in crime over the last 10 years in Scioto County.

Total Crime Index For Scioto County (Grade A-F)
Violent Crime Index
Property Crime Index


The Profile of a BroSci

The averge BroSci (combination Brown and Scioto resident) comes from a sparsely populated, rural Southern Ohio environment on the banks of the Ohio River. That person is white and has very few minority neighbors, as Afro-Americans make up the majority of those non-white folks at 1.4% of the population.

The BroSci, if he or she works, has a yearly income of $27,189. Of course, close to 10% of the them are on unemployment. 15.5% of the BroSci's live below the poverty line -- approximately 19,274 people.

57% of the BroSci households live as married couples while 28% live as non-families -- all families with an average of 3 children per family. So, the odd are 4 in 10 couples live out of wedlock.

A BroSci lives in a high crime environment. At least one resident is victim of a crime about every 2 hours in the Sci region, while one person is victimized every 18 hours in the Bro area. A BroSci lives in an area that experiences far greater than normal criminal activity. The resident is surrounded by the criminal element. 

Heroin kills BroSci's in abundant numbers, at a rate at least two times the state average. While Sci population is higher by more than 54% than that of Bro population, a resident is more likely to die from overdose in either deadly, rural kill zone than anywhere else in Ohio.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gary Chaffins and Frank Thompson Talking Abortion

This e-mail response from Gary Chaffins is printed in mutual agreement. It is intended for public consumption to help those struggling with the issue of abortion and all its complex understandings. What follows is open discussion between two people who agree to disagree. I certainly intend no harm to my new friend, Gary. He has the same consideration for me. Gary and I put this entry out for your consideration and for your discernment that opposing views may lead to new understandings. The comments from Gary are printed in blue. My response is printed in black.


Thank you for your time today. Per your request, here is a summary of my position on the topic of Christianity and abortion. Please note that due to time constraints, I pulled together a few resources that properly reflect my position. I hope that you take the time to consider each and every resource that I have provided for you.

I recognize that Abortion is a very touchy subject and talking about it can result in anger, accusations, hurt feelings and so on. These things seem to become more of a reality whenever one approaches it from a Christian worldview. However, please note, that although I believe abortion is wrong, my message is NOT condemnation, but to offer a clear picture of the value of human life in the sight of God and the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With that said, I unashamedly admit that the Bible serves as my ultimate guide on this issue.

My position is that abortion is murder and that murderers should be punished as murderers (according to current standards of law).

Here is a concise statement that sums up my position on this topic:

"The Bible never specifically addresses the issue of abortion. However, there are numerous teachings in Scripture that make it abundantly clear what God’s view of abortion is. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows us before He forms us in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 speaks of God’s active role in our creation and formation in the womb. Exodus 21:22-25 prescribes the same penalty—death—for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb as for someone who commits murder. This clearly indicates that God considers a baby in the womb to be as human as a full-grown adult. For the Christian, abortion is not a matter of a woman’s right to choose. It is a matter of the life or death of a human being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6).

The first argument that always arises against the Christian stance on abortion is “What about cases of rape and/or incest?” As horrible as it would be to become pregnant as a result of rape and/or incest, is the murder of a baby the answer? Two wrongs do not make a right. The child who is a result of rape/incest could be given in adoption to a loving family unable to have children on their own, or the child could be raised by its mother. Again, the baby is completely innocent and should not be punished for the evil acts of its father.

The second argument that usually arises against the Christian stance on abortion is “What about when the life of the mother is at risk?” Honestly, this is the most difficult question to answer on the issue of abortion. First, let’s remember that this situation is the reason behind less than one-tenth of one percent of the abortions done in the world today. Far more women have an abortion for convenience than women who have an abortion to save their own lives. Second, let’s remember that God is a God of miracles. He can preserve the life of a mother and a child despite all the medical odds being against it. Ultimately, though, this question can only be decided between a husband, wife, and God. Any couple facing this extremely difficult situation should pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) as to what He would have them to do.

Over 95 percent of the abortions performed today involve women who simply do not want to have a baby. Less than 5 percent of abortions are for the reasons of rape, incest, or the mother's health at risk. Even in the more difficult 5 percent of instances, abortion should never be the first option. The life of a human being in the womb is worth every effort to allow the child to be born.

For those who have had an abortion, remember that the sin of abortion is no less forgivable than any other sin. Through faith in Christ, all sins can be forgiven (John 3:16; Romans 8:1; Colossians 1:14). A woman who has had an abortion, a man who has encouraged an abortion, or even a doctor who has performed one—can all be forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ."

The Gospel and Abortion

Furthermore, I believe that life begins at conception. In the words of Denny Burke:

"pro-lifers define abortions as any measure that causes a fertilized egg or fetus to be destroyed. Pro-lifers believe that all human beings have an inalienable right to life from conception to natural death. Notice that it’s not from implantation to natural death, but from conception to natural death. When sperm unites with an egg, a new human life comes into being. In the normal course of events, that new human life travels down the fallopian tubes and into the mother’s womb where it implants into the uterine wall. Pro-choicers often say that an abortion can only occur after implantation. Pro-lifers contend that abortion can occur before or after implantation. Human life is at stake from the time of conception, and anything that destroys that life is abortifacient."

Here are a few quotes to help justify such a statement:

A United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee invited experts to testify on the question of when life begins. All of the quotes from the following experts come directly from the official government record of their testimony.
Dr. Alfred M. Bongiovanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated:
I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.... I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life....
"I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of not a human being. This is human life at every stage.”

Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, was the discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down syndrome. Dr. LeJeune testified to the Judiciary Subcommittee, “after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” He stated that this “is no longer a matter of taste or opinion,” and “not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.” He added, “Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

Professor Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic: “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive.... It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.... Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.”

Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School: “The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter—the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political, or economic goals.”

A prominent physician points out that at these Senate hearings, “Pro-abortionists, though invited to do so, failed to produce even a single expert witness who would specifically testify that life begins at any point other than conception or implantation. Only one witness said no one can tell when life begins.”

Many other prominent scientists and physicians have likewise affirmed with certainty that human life begins at conception:

Ashley Montague, a geneticist and professor at Harvard and Rutgers, is unsympathetic to the prolife cause. Nevertheless, he affirms unequivocally, “The basic fact is simple: life begins not at birth, but conception.”

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, internationally known obstetrician and gynecologist, was a cofounder of what is now the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). He owned and operated what was at the time the largest abortion clinic in the western hemisphere. He was directly involved in over sixty thousand abortions.

Dr. Nathanson’s study of developments in the science of fetology and his use of ultrasound to observe the unborn child in the womb led him to the conclusion that he had made a horrible mistake. Resigning from his lucrative position, Nathanson wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that he was deeply troubled by his “increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”

In his film, “The Silent Scream,” Nathanson later stated, “Modern technologies have convinced us that beyond question the unborn child is simply another human being, another member of the human community, indistinguishable in every way from any of us.” Dr. Nathanson wrote Aborting America to inform the public of the realities behind the abortion rights 
movement of which he had been a primary leader. At the time Dr. Nathanson was an atheist. His conclusions were not even remotely religious, but squarely based on the biological facts.

Dr. Landrum Shettles was for twenty-seven years attending obstetrician-gynecologist at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Shettles was a pioneer in sperm biology, fertility, and sterility. He is internationally famous for being the discoverer of male- and female-producing sperm. His intrauterine photographs of preborn children appear in over fifty medical textbooks. Dr. Shettles states,"I oppose abortion. I do so, first, because I accept what is biologically manifest—that human life commences at the time of conception—and, second, because I believe it is wrong to take innocent human life under any circumstances. My position is scientific, pragmatic, and humanitarian."

The First International Symposium on Abortion came to the following conclusion:
The changes occurring between implantation, a six-week embryo, a six-month fetus, a one-week-old child, or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation. The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage, and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life.

The Official Senate report on Senate Bill 158, the "Human Life Bill," summarized the issue this way:

Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being - a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.
Source: Randy Alcorn (

Helpful Resources:

Can birth control cause abortion? 
"180" The Movie

In Christ,
Gary Chaffins 

First of all, I want to thank Gary Chaffins for e-mailing me his position after he read a blog entry I wrote about my views on abortion. We discussed abortion during a phone call prior to his e-mail. I greatly appreciate his intelligent approach and his call. It is evident he has done extensive research on the subject, and he reasonably supported his view with documented resources. 

As a person who writes a blog that is largely editorial in content, I appreciate his scholarship and documented work. I hope you read it carefully and give it your utmost consideration. He deserves your time and effort.

During a call from Gary, I asked his permission to print the entire e-mail as part of this response in my blog. As I told him, I firmly believe people must discuss important issues to find common ground and points of difference. I think bringing opinions to the table is essential to understanding compromise and to forming well-supported positions.

I applaud him on his honesty and his courage to allow me to include his response. I feel Gary is both sincere and committed to his Christian views. To me, the fact that he stands up for his beliefs is proof he is a rare person with great conviction willing to talk amiably with someone taking a slightly different stand.

Gary's biblical position is clear. I respect his references to the Bible. I will let them speak for themselves. My only comment is that all of these scriptures come from the Old Testament. The Old Testament does also contain references to God's vengeance of using abortion. It records God in his wrath causing the people of Samaria to bear their guilt because they rebelled against Him. Hosea 9:13-16 speaks of the wrath in which their infants are dashed in pieces, and their women with children "ripped up."

I confess Gary is a much more competent biblical scholar than myself, but I have difficulty paralleling God's complete sanctity of the fetus referenced by Gary with God's decree of complete desolation in the Bible, including annihilation of the fruit of women's wombs, due to their transgression. Surely, these fetuses were innocent of worldly sin and incapable of causing the sins of their fathers and mothers. I find this contradictory to pro-life belief.

Gary and I agree about the definition of conception: "When sperm unites with an egg, a new human life comes into being." Yet, in our conversation, he informed me that his anti-abortion stand also supports the ban of the morning-after pill (EC), or emergency contraception. Gary is careful to delineate "implantation" from "conception." I also understand his point here. Destruction of an implanted embryo that has adhered to the wall of the uterus is defined as abortion. I believe that too.

Gary and I disagree about the fact that morning-after pills necessarily destroy human life. In truth, morning-after pills a means of contraception that most likely perform the task before conception. The emergency contraceptive/morning-after pill has three modes of action (as does the regular birth control pill); it can work in one of three ways:
  1. The normal menstrual cycle is altered, delaying ovulation; or
  2. Ovulation is inhibited, meaning the egg will not be released from the ovary;
  3. It can irritate the lining of the uterus (endometrium) so as to inhibit implantation.
Morning after pill contain contain a form of the hormone progesterone called levonorgestrel. Another regimen of EC pills is a combination regimen containing forms of two hormones: progesterone and estrogen. Pills in this regimen are really just the pills used in oral contraception, but a woman must take more than one for them to work as emergency contraception.

EC should never be used as a primary form of birth control. And, similar to regular birth control, EC will not terminate an existing pregnancy. Yet, human conception rarely occurs immediately after intercourse, instead, it usually as long as several days later after ovulation. During the time between intercourse and conception, sperm continue to travel through the fallopian tube until the egg appears.

It is evident the morning-after pill is most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex. The influx of synthetic hormones prevents the ovaries from releasing the egg, thus stopping an unwanted pregnancy. Once a fertilized egg implants, EC will have no effect. This explains why doctors advise women to take the pills no later than 72 hours after unprotected sex -- the chances of it working past that point are very low.  

Despite any disagreement on whether many people believe the definition of life involves implantation and not just conception, the evidence that EC prevents a fertilized egg from adhering to a "thinner" uterine lining is questionable. And, most certainly the hormonal action of EC as described in numbers 1 and 2 above does not destroy a fertilized egg, or as Gary defines "a new life."

Studies have shown that most of the time, women take the morning-after pill for their own peace of mind. For example, a risk of pregnancy may occur when a condom slips off or breaks during intercourse, when a woman forgets to take her birth control pills two days in a row, or when a diaphragm or cervical cap moves, breaks, or tears.

Findings report in 78% of all cases, taking emergency contraception is unnecessary because the woman could not have conceived a child (meaning she was not fertile to begin with). Thus, emergency contraception only has an effect 22 percent of the time. Taking a morning-after regimen does not abort a fetus.

I happen to believe in EC if for nothing else, for a woman's need for emotional security, not for her simple convenience. I understand some abuse of these pills is inevitable, yet birth control is necessary in many cases. And, in most cases, if not in all cases, EC is a form of birth control and not an abortifacient device. I think pro-life attempts to legislate morning-after pills off the market threaten a woman's rights to freedom of contraception.

My Main Concern With Pro-Life Legislation

Gary and I agree that abortion can be morally and even legally wrong. But I, unlike Gary, think the right to have an abortion must be preserved for certain circumstances (Please read this entry for my stance: while Gary believes all abortions must be banned.

I, perhaps with a little too much spirited impetus, prodded Gary about what would be done to women who have abortions once the law makes abortion illegal. And, by the way, let's not forget "it takes two to tango," and a potential father shares the responsibility for committing this crime. I asked Gary if he considers abortion is murder in the first degree. He said he believes it is.

Here is what Gary believes, and it is the 
focal point of our disagreement:
"My position is that abortion is murder and that murderers should be punished as murderers (according to current standards of law)."

Here is the Ohio Revised Code section for the penalty that applies to this argument:

2929.02 Murder penalties.

"Whoever is convicted of or pleads guilty to aggravated murder in violation of section 2903.01  of the Revised Code shall suffer death or be imprisoned for life, as determined pursuant to sections 2929.022 , 2929.03 , and 2929.04 of the Revised Code, except that no person who raises the matter of age pursuant to section 2929.023 of the Revised Code and who is not found to have been eighteen years of age or older at the time of the commission of the offense shall suffer death. In addition, the offender may be fined an amount fixed by the court, but not more than twenty-five thousand dollars."

It is necessary to understand when young people are tried as adults in criminal court, they face the same penalties as adults. This includes the death penalty or life without parole. In addition, once a juvenile has been transferred to adult court and convicted of (or pleaded guilty to) any felony, he or she is thereafter deemed not to be a "child" in any subsequent case. Likewise, a juvenile who has had the adult portion of a "serious youthful offender" sentence invoked is no longer deemed a child.

I can view this penalty for anyone convicted of having an abortion only one way: this view is absolutely and totally unjust. In fact, the ramifications for destroying the liberties of Americans and endangering our youth are unthinkable. I understand how Gary, in his solid commitment to moral and ethical behavior, believes some who decide to have an abortion are akin to murderers, but, in reality, to judge that all abortions are murders and all who have an abortion are murderers who must receive the necessary penalty under law for such an offense, is irrational and, in my mind, unholy.

To legislate an end to the right to abortion squarely puts the responsibility for death to "abortionist murderers" upon those who insist upon lobbying for such sweeping laws. In my opinion, the present anti-abortion movement diminishes its stance by insisting that all those who abort are killers. The Christians who stand behind the symbol of the cross as an absolute conviction to ending all abortions practice a means of revenge, and do, in effect, attempt to crucify those who abort.

The reason I use the defense of the morning-after pill is to illustrate that all who choose to prevent a new life are not ruthless, uncaring criminals, and, not all those who wish to plan pregnancy through the use of contraceptives are reckless pleasure seekers.

Would many right-to-life advocates also prohibit the sale of birth control pills? I think so. Then condoms and then... anything that prevents conception... because in their minds intercourse is only deemed "right" for purposes of some kind of legal procreation in marriage? Do these people reject all acts of sex outside of traditional heterosexual marriage? This would deny homosexual freedom of sexual contact and expression.

Let me be damned if I am wrong. I risk taking the chance to disagree with pro-lifers. I do not like abortion, but at the same time, I recognize the need to make it available to those in certain circumstances who need it and who use to continue their peaceful existence. To accuse all who have of abortions of the crime of murder is more than gross over-generalization. It is just bad, bad thinking.

I want to close my response by again thanking Gary for representing his views and the views of many others like him. I respect the rights of everyone to believe in good principles and to practice their beliefs. I respect Gary and his pro-life advocates for their choices; however, I do see a great distinction between adhering to chosen personal commitments and pushing legislation that mandates questionable moral principles that must be followed by all.

I will fight this pro-life "cover all abortion" stand with my writing.

My proof rests on the beliefs that America could not stop abortion through law, neither could it enforce anti-abortion law and convict all those guilty of the crime. Death and life imprisonment to those involved in committing abortions would amount to a new genocide of sexually active citizens, young and old, and to a very negligible decrease in abortion labeled as "infanticide" by pro-lifers.

In an innocent vision of a perfect world, juvenile lovers would be holding hands and kissing; consenting, enamored adults would be amorously enjoying safe-sex love affairs; and married couples of all ages would be engaged in sensible, financially responsible family planning. Maybe you wake up in this reality. I don't. My eyes view complications, and my mind works to apply feasible solutions.

As a member of a jury, I could no more give the death penalty to a woman who has what is considered now a legal abortion than I could commit my own soul to hell. Let's live in a moral America with all its cracks and marred surfaces while we look at the exact circumstances of all ethical concerns.

With some of the illogical governmental actions lately, I see many better opportunities to save lives than to outlaw abortion. More state-sponsored, unenforceable, knee-jerk reactions to lobbyists offering big money and false promises to end dilemmas will only contribute to the demise of our freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Living and Adjusting Within My Own Soul

I believe my soul is the domain of God, not bounded by the covenant of a single doctrine or a single church. Many times in my life I have faced decisions to believe one set of rules or the entire dogma of one denomination. I have done that, and I have found my soul still lacking.

In addition, I have had others preach to me that simplicity and nonsectarian acceptance of the Savior in a call to the altar is the sole path to salvation. To me, this requires nothing but a mindful commitment, and a simple vow that "I will never doubt again." But, my mind seems too restless. It cannot be chained to a simple, static understanding as I continue to sin and question the faith.

First of all, I believe in God. I, like so many others who believe in Him, struggle with what the Creator intends me to make of my life. I have prayed and counseled with the Almighty about the path I should take. Since I believe He owns my soul and He is the only one who understands its unique creation, I also believe in making many tough decisions in life by relying upon His advice. To me, these soul-searching times are very private, spiritual sessions in which I listen and then attempt to apply the solution in ways satisfying to Him. With my human faults, I am not always successful in my applications.

My God even allows me free will to practice life by trial and error. Since I am stubborn and egotistical at times, my mistakes are inevitable. But, through his grace, He allows me to readjust my routes and carry on. I know some believe God is vengeful and abhors the continued sins of a human; however, I think sometimes God intends sinners to keep learning and applying new purposes to achieve greater good. The struggle is the proof of longevity of belief.

I do not believe my particular life is one that is meant to be lived quoting scriptures and waving Bibles under the noses of lost sinners. At best, I believe God wants me to relate my story -- the rights and the wrongs -- and let others find their own meaningi n it. (If any meaning is apparent)  I am comfortable outside the walls of churches in my beliefs, and I understand many would say I am wrong and bound for hell for being so. I do not condemn them for holding their beliefs.

Without trying to sound overly metaphysical, I find my soul most at rest in nature, away from people, sects, clubs, and governments. I have literally been shaken to the core by natural settings and natural events. For example, upon witnessing the splendor of the Grand Canyon, I sat on a park bench and broke into uncontrollable tears. I felt as if I had lost all perspective of earthly comprehension there, and I experienced a deep, soulful connection with all humans who had ever viewed this gift of God. Simply put, I was spiritually overwhelmed.

I have had similar experiences with small gifts of Creation. Taking time to look at the amazing detail and beauty of water, stones, and plants, I have felt the Maker deep in my soul. I have often said a small blade of grass is a heavenly miracle far beyond the greatest inventions of man. In that small stalk of grass, I see a living universe without end, and I imagine the breath of life supplied by God.

I am not condemning or attempting to detract from the beliefs of anyone else. I have wonderful friends who staunchly believe in one book and in one interpretation of religion. I respect them as long as they do not injure others with their judgments. I will always love them as I sincerely believe they are merely fellow beings traveling their own destined journeys the best way they know how. And, besides, I don't believe in one answer to all spiritual concerns.

Again, I am merely stating my belief that God intends me to question, study, gain, and even fail to find His purpose for my life. Although I have attained several degrees, have worked in a profession, and have attained practical experience, I think God wants me to continue to push towards making a unique contribution. While doing so, I also believe God intends me to offer others love with my own voice and actions. I think he respects my decisions as long as I apply love.

I find complete harmony of thought in human beings both boring and largely unproductive. During my life I have taken so much understanding from so many perspectives that I often question the status quo or the simple solution. That is one of the main reasons I write this blog. I find it impossible to ask someone to expand their understandings without looking at the opposition and without considering reasons for opposing beliefs.

I have never "stood upon a rock" of belief that didn't contain a sizable crack. Upon my inspection, sometimes that crevice proved to be dangerous and sometimes it proved to be a scar of little-understood, natural weathering. I have learned to accept and love imperfection with inherent, kind purpose.

I find blind allegiance and promotion of narrow understandings un-Godly. I don't believe God inflicted such lockstep advancement upon His own son, so I can't believe He intends me to live without questioning and thinking freely. When I feel God most in residence within my soul, He seems to offer a myriad of roads for contemplation and growth. He disapproves of some of my actions. Still, the Almighty is a source of infinite inspiration for positive change in ways I find inconceivable without His help. 

Many times, my God reminds me to learn from all wise people I have met. At the same time, the Almighty seems to say He doesn't want me to be molded into a "cookie-cutter existence." He doesn't want me to expect Him to smooth my rough edges by simply praying or regretting. He demands that I develop workable theories with Him and that I apply them in practice. And, in His wonderful kindness, he often watches me weakly "let down" my end of the work, but then challenges me to another try.

In closing, I believe God resides in my soul, and He is the good driving force that allows me to advance my life. Any good spirit I possess, I derive from him. Some day, when I leave this earth, I hope He possesses my soul and allows it to be even more pleasing to His plans. In the meantime, I rely upon searching my soul for His will and attempting to apply it through my heart and mind. I'm pretty sure the Almighty loves baseball, and maybe I can hit .350 with his help... then again, most of us are lucky to find the .280 mark. God grant me the vision and the wisdom to keep myself in a winning ballgame.