“Unnecessary Harm And Confusion – Fast And Furious, The Sequel”

“For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:7 NLT

“For my part, I think it less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.” – Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Olmstead vs. The United States (1928)

Attorney General Eric Holder said recently that a 471-page report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz made it clear that he took immediate action to stop the tactics used in the seriously flawed “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation once he learned about them. In fact, according to the September 20, 2012 Wall Street Journal, Holder denounced those who were “so quick to make baseless accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary   harm and confusion.”

The “unnecessary harm and confusion” that may have been caused is nothing compared to the totally unnecessary harm and confusion those 2,000 illegal weapons Holder’s employees negligently allowed to fall into the hands of dangerous criminals will cause to untold individuals and their families.

When will this nation learn that anytime those who are charged with upholding the law place themselves above the law and employ tactics that border on criminal acts to catch individuals in criminal activity that they created, the public winds up paying an exorbitant price? No matter what lofty goals were envisioned; no matter what eloquent explanations are given, placing 2,000 “mostly variants of AK-47 rifles” into the hands of men predisposed to use them is an act that I feel confident saying Justice Holmes would classify as “ignoble.” And that would be if he were being beneficent.

For any agent of the United States government to promote illegal activity to combat it goes far beyond being “ignoble” and approaches an act that teeters on the edge of criminality.

The congressional probe of Operation Fast and Furious was led by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Both expressed “outrage and indignation” over the incident and called on Mr. Holder to “hold people accountable.”

Jason Weinstein, a top aide to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, resigned from the Justice Department on September 18. Kenneth Melson, former ATF Acting Director, retired from the Justice Department on September 19. The ATF, according to the Journal, said it would “use the report to pursue disciplinary investigations which could result in firings or other administrative sanctions.”

Perhaps Senator Grassley and Representative Issa can now be persuaded to “express outrage and indignation” regarding an even more “seriously flawed” operation being conducted by the Justice Department. I refer to the ongoing efforts to ensnare those who would look at child pornography. I say “seriously flawed” because the current approach to solving the problem of the spread of child pornography, can never achieve results other than negative ones that cause ‘unnecessary harm and confusion.” These results include the totally unnecessary incarceration of tens of thousands of individuals; the effective destruction of their families; and – most important of all – the inadvertent aiding in the distribution of child pornography not only to adults but to children as young as 11 years old. Eleven years old is the average age at which children are exposed to Internet pornography and, sad to say, if one can find pornography, one can find child pornography.

At the Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) National Conference in early September in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senator Cisco McSorley of that state said, “I am sick and tired of politicians who won’t take a stand on controversial issues.”

Perhaps Senator McSorley can get together with Senator Grassley and Representative Issa and stand up to do the right thing, which is to demand that the Justice Department and Internet Service Providers move immediately to end the “unnecessary harm and confusion” that this preventable pandemic causes in America each and every day. The victims suffer; the families of victims suffer; the families of those incarcerated for viewing these images suffer; those arrested suffer and society itself suffers immeasurably.

Given the fact that much of what transpires today is preventable, I am not sure that “harm and confusion” even begins to come close to describing the avoidable carnage wrought by another “pattern of serious failures” in this tragic chapter in American history. More jail time is not the answer.

More people in jail is not the answer. The answer is to eliminate the images; to stop them from entering this nation’s homes in the first place; to use available technology to prevent, not promote illegal activity.

Justice Holmes also heard another case in which he made a comment I find particularly relevant. The case was Schenck vs. the United States (1919) and it was a famous one that concerned an individual’s right to free speech. Justice Holmes said that the Constitutional right of free speech did not give an individual the right to stand up in a crowded theater and shout “fire”, creating a panic.

Any time discussions are entered into concerning the blocking of anything on the Internet, the subject of free speech emerges. Let us consider the words of Justice Holmes in “Schenck”: The question in every case is whether the ”words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has the right to prevent.”

In this case, child pornography constitutes “the words.” The “clear and present danger” to this nation by child pornography can hardly be disputed. The “substantive evil” that child pornography brings into this country’s homes is not only the right of Congress to prevent, it is Congress’ duty.

Let us hope that Mr. Grassley, Mr. Issa, Mr. McSorley or any of the other men and women elected to serve the people of this country stand up and address this problem in the right way.

They have the power to lock the door on child pornography. And they must.

“The Faces of Felons: Two Faces of Youth”

“Has she brought up her children well?” – 1 Timothy 5b NLT

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older, they judge them, sometimes they forgive them.”  – Oscar Wilde

I haven’t written one of these segments in a long while. Perhaps the rapidity with which the faces come in and out of focus became too much for me; it’s really impossible to say. As you will see, only one of the faces I referred to in the title is known to me and I hope it stays that way. I see too many of these youthful faces in here and it weighs heavily on my heart and mind.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care. Perhaps none of it should bother me at all. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother those who send them here. Quite possibly, by the time the stories of these two young men have been told, we will all understand why I care. And if I do my self-assigned job well, you will care too.

I will have to call the young man whom I do know by a name that I’ve invented. So let’s invent him as an Albert. Yes, that works since I don’t know an Albert. And let us just pretend that Albert comes from Utah. These are the first and only untruths that I will tell you about him.

Albert recently saw the passing of his 21st birthday. Notice I didn’t say “celebrated” because Albert doesn’t do much celebrating these days. He is a big, soft gentle person who reminds me of a giant panda. He has black hair and white, white skin. His face is marked by moderate acne, some of which would probably clear up if he spent some time in the sun. Hair sprouts from all visible parts of his body – not extremely dense, just there, everywhere his skin is exposed.

Albert is about 5’10” or 5’11” and has big bones that are covered with a thick layer of flesh that is not toned enough to be called muscle, but not exactly soft enough to be called fat. He is just big and soft and slow moving, like that giant panda I mentioned. His eyes are a pleasant light green and are clear, displaying intelligence but also betraying sadness. His voice has a slight nasal tone to it and his words are spoken with a peculiar laziness that makes it seem as if it requires an effort to speak. The sadness that is betrayed in his eyes is also evident in his speech, accompanied by an undertone of defeat. In conversations Albert always has more questions than answers, as if this is all a big puzzle to him that he is having trouble putting together.

I cannot offer a physical description of the other youthful face I am writing about since I have never laid eyes on him. I can tell you that he is 20 years old and his name is Sidney Holloway Perry of Pulaski County, Arkansas. I did not invent Sidney’s name or make up where he is from. I learned these things from the August 11, 2012 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Neither young man had a criminal record prior to their current problems. They were both arrested for possession of child pornography at around the same age. From the moment of their arrests onward, their treatment in the judicial system was as different as night and day.

Sidney Perry of Maumelle, Arkansas was a very lucky young man. According to the newspaper article “Federal Prosecutors declined the case because of (his) age.” This left it in state court and while Sidney was apparently facing 20 years, Judge Barry Sims sentenced the young man to six months in jail, followed by five years of probation for two felony child pornography convictions. The judge sternly informed Sidney that he would go to prison for those 20 years if he repeated his behavior. Fair enough. There was not a tremendous amount of detail regarding his background or upbringing, although the judge excoriated Sidney’s mother and father and felt they were to blame for not properly supervising Sidney, who had been “diagnosed with depression” attention deficit disorder and some cognitive difficulties. He also had dropped out of school in the 9th grade. Judge Sims actually compared “their inattentiveness to abandoning a child on the street with drug dealers.”

Sidney’s mother, Julie Ann Holloway, was the director of the Arkansas State CASA Association, which serves children who are in the court system after being removed from homes because of abuse or neglect. “You are a child advocate,” the judge said, “but you haven t done anything to help him? If I were you, I would resign today. My anger is directed at you. I want to help him if I can.”

“I want to help him if I can.” Praise God and thank you, Judge Sims. If only you had been around for Albert.

Perhaps I should have pointed out earlier that Albert gave me permission to identify him and name the state he was from. Since Albert’s story involved other members of his family, it was my decision to mask his true identity.

Albert’s story actually begins with his older brother who was sexually abused by a male babysitter when he was eight. The sitter, according to Albert, “wasn’t quite right. . . there was something wrong with him mentally.” The abuse to Albert’s brother was detected not by his parents but by his aunt who “noticed something was not right.’ She fired the babysitter. Nothing else was done at the time. It was shortly after that when Albert’s brother began sexually abusing him. He was five years old. His brother was nine. The abuse continued until Albert was 14.

According to Albert, his mother knew his brother was abusing him “for years but didn’t say anything.” It wasn’t until later that the older brother received counseling, but there was none to be had for Albert “because by then we didn’t have any more money.” I didn’t dig in to how it all came to light or what prompted the counseling, but Albert did say that the abuse was mentioned in court.

The one day I really had time alone to talk with Albert, we R ran into each other in the rec yard. He joined me as I made my way around the track and the conversation just started. One of the things we discussed was whether or not his family was spiritual and Albert said, “Very.” But then he chuckled in a manner that belied more than a little cynicism as he said, “It was kind of a screwed up church we belonged to, though.” The church, he said, had been through four pastors in 10 years; two had been arrested for child molestation, one had been fired for having affairs with female members and one had been fired for sexual harassment, pressuring unwilling female members of his flock into having sex with him. “Kind of screwed up” indeed.

As we continued our walk, I asked if he minded telling me how a 13 year old boy becomes addicted to pornography – and child pornography at that. I had known from an earlier conversation that this was the age at which all of this had begun but we hadn’t had the chance to go into further detail. He said he didn’t mind talking about it and told me how adept he was at using a computer, as many young people are today. This was around the period at which the sexual abuse by his brother was coming to an end and perhaps this was serving as some sort of substitute. His computer was located in the privacy of his bedroom and he began, quite simply, with Google and progressed to following links to various sites where files were shared.

I inquired about parental involvement and monitoring and he replied that they tried but he was better at hiding his tracks than they were at following them. He also told me that his mother caught him one time and moved his computer into the dining room where his activities could be monitored. He said he “made too much noise and it was too inconvenient for everyone” so the computer was returned to the privacy of his room.

It is becoming apparent that the ISPs, and therefore the authorities, are aware of who is doing what where child pornography is concerned, so it is just a question of who gets the most attention and I guess Albert was the lucky one. Well . . . not as lucky as Sidney. The federal government did not decline prosecution due to Albert’s age and lack of criminal record. Nor was any consideration given to the abuse he had experienced or any reports from court appointed psychologists that suggested Albert was not a pedophile, not a risk to children and at low risk of repeating his offense. Albert obviously needed help. He needed someone to help him get his thought processes back on track.

What Albert did get was nine years in prison and ten years of supervised release. By the time he is released, he will have spent almost a third of his life behind bars. The insanity of all of this is mind-numbing. The irresponsible manner in which the government of this country is treating this issue is so pathetically ineffective and destructive as to be beyond comprehension.

I cannot do this young man’s story justice. I am not that good, nor do I have enough space. I can only cry out in his behalf and try to make people aware that there are many confused, yet harmless young men like Albert who need help, not prison time.

There are enough experts in all of the different fields related to the topic of child pornography who consistently say that there simply is no rhyme or reason for the sentences and abusive treatment and restrictions of registry that are destroying a good portion of this country’s future.

Albert needed a Judge Sims, but there was none to be found when his turn before the bench came. I am sorry, Albert, if I have failed you as so many others in your life have. But I think I can answer that question now as to why I should care: I should care because Albert is a child of God and this is what God would expect of me. I should care because I am sorry for the poor judgment and lack of moral character I displayed and I know so many others are as well.

And I care because my ongoing hope in that caring will cause me to find the right words and somewhere, somehow, someone’s life will change for the better.

God bless you all.

“Talk To Me”

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” – Proverbs 27:9 NLT

“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.” – John Milton

I have never addressed the subject of the comments of my readers. Or the lack thereof, which is more of the impetus for this little blurb than those I do receive.

First, I want to make sure that you all understand that I do not actually post any of these articles myself. My beloved son, Anthony, my beloved brother-in-law, Larry, and my beloved friend, Diane are responsible for that. I cannot go online and see anything, but your comments are passed along to me and I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write them. Even those few, (thank goodness) that have not been favorable, I do read, so please write them.

They will all be posted by one of my “editors” unless they are suspected of being “phishing” or presenting a danger to others’ computers. While comments critical of my point of view will get posted, any that are simply hateful invective most assuredly will not. And most definitely any that tell about how an article may have helped or affected someone are welcome.

I am generally a very upbeat, positive, forward-moving individual who doesn’t need to be verbally stroked. Okay, I’m a liar. Stroke me, please. Rub my literary tummy and scratch behind my metaphorical ears. Say anything, but say something, for when people are silent, situations such as those facing this country today are allowed to grow and alter the course of tens of thousands of lives, dangerously and permanently.

To those who have taken the time to offer support, encouragement and even disagreement – I thank you.

And for those who may be wondering, Diane is not my wife, sister, mother, aunt, cousin or other relative. She is just a lovely person who makes her opinions known. I do not pay her. (I should, for all she does. However, I am but a poor ward of the government). And if any of you are feeling guilty for not speaking up, you can make it up to me by sending me a birthday card. I will be 59 on October 25th and 59 cards would be nice.

So let’s see – if all my readers and all of my family and all of my friends send cards, that would be… ummm… plus six, carry the one… okay! I’ve got it! I would be short only by about 42 cards. But what the heck!

Only gold is golden. Silence is simply silence.

God bless you all.

“A Child Protection Act That Doesn’t”

“I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray.”           – 1 John 2:26 NLT

“Mr. Kremlin himself was distinguished for ignorance, for he had only one idea – and that was wrong.”   – Benjamin Disraeli

      On June 29, 2012, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith introduced H.R. 6063, a bill which, on its surface, is as noble and well-intentioned as a piece of legislation can possibly be.  Titled “The Child Protection Act of 2012,” it would be difficult for anyone to find fault with its lofty purported goal – to protect children.

      While I cannot find fault with the goal, the bill itself is a misguided, misinformed,  and useless piece of pompous political puffery and does little if anything at all to protect any child from anything. In fact, it diverts still more funds and attention away from any sincere effort to provide protection for those identified in its inappropriately named title.  H.R. 6063 is shameless political grandstanding at its lowest which actually exploits the very children it claims to protect for purely political gain.

      Too harsh? Probably not harsh enough since Mr. Smith and his staff demonstrate surprising insensitivity  and a true lack of understanding of the very problem for which H.R. 6063 claims to offer a solution – how to protect the children of America. This lack of understanding borders on incompetence at its best and blatant exploitation at its worst. In either scenario, a case could be made against Mr. Smith’s fitness to  serve the public.

      Let’s review some of the statements he made while introducing this bill. First, he states that the bill “increases penalties for the possession of child pornography.” According to nationally published data, 76% of the nation’s federal judges feel the guidelines and enhancements for possession of child pornography are too high already, resulting in many thousands of individuals spending much more time in federal prison for looking at pictures than many of the individuals who perform the acts depicted in the pictures themselves.

      Second, Rep. Smith claims that H.R. 6063 “helps prevent more victims by raising the penalties for those who hurt our children.”  Again, he is attacking the problem on the back end, after the damage has been done. The root cause of harm to children in this country is never addressed.

      Third, he further states, “Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing on average of 150% each year.” The reality is, if the personnel and prison space were available, prosecutions could increase by ten times 150% per year because the number of computers that contain some form or d fragment of child pornography on them is estimated at 75% or higher by some sources. The answer to the child pornography issue lies in preventing it from being produced.

      Fourth, Mr. Smith states, “Every day these online criminals prey on our children with virtual anonymity.” Our movements, actions and interests are all known by our Internet Service  Providers (ISPs). There is no real anonymity. If there is an increase in the availability of child pornography online, then the ISPs as well as the Justice Department should be held liable for civil and criminal damages since it is within their ability to detect, filter and eliminate it at the source or, at the very least, severely limit its  dissemination.

      The bald truth is that H.R. 6063 offers little more than an attention-getting banner to be waved by Mr. Smith as he campaigns for reelection. It offers precious little in the way of honest attempts to address the very real horrors of sexual abuse that hundreds of thousands of American children face every day. For Mr. Smith to attempt to capitalize on their pain and loss of innocence for political gain is shameful in the extreme.

      For the most part, all Mr. Smith does address is child pornography and this he discusses with a  statement that demonstrates how off-target he and his staff (like so many lawmakers) are. It is difficult to get the real problem addressed because they are too fixed on riding the vote-garnering wave of the easy problem.  The real problem, the root of this evil mess, is the child sexual abuse that enables child pornography to exist in the first place.

       Mr. Smith flaunted his ignorance regarding the root cause of the problem when he said, “Trafficking of child pornography images was almost completely eradicated in America by the mid-1980s. Purchasing or trading these images was risky and almost impossible to do anonymously. But the advent of the Internet reversed this accomplishment”. Mr. Smith spoke as though child pornography was the problem. Child pornography was a separate problem created as a result of the root problem of the sexual abuse of children. At no time does Mr.-Smith give any indication that he understands this.

      The approach of Mr. Smith and many other legislators is tantamount to implying that the drug addict is the problem rather than the result of the real problem – the production and distribution of drugs. The more accurate statement is, if there wel:e no drugs, we would have no drug addicts. Similarly, if child sexual abuse did not exist~, there would be no child pornography, since every single instance of child pornography is a visual record of child sexual abuse.

      This nation’s lawmakers have proven to be woefully inadequate and ineffective in the war on drugs. Do we really want to repeat the litany of mistakes made in that ill-conceived effort? Why not focus on the real problem and work toward a meaningful solution rather than being subjected to a tiresome parade of cheap political smokescreens such as that advanced by Rep. Smith. As for his specious claim that the goal of protecting our children was almost attained in the 1980s, nothing could be further from the  truth.

      Just ask anyone of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who were sexually abused as children during that time. Just because there may not have been an availability of the images recording these children’s pain does not mean there was no pain to record. Because there was a scarcity of video does not mean there was a lack of inexcusable, horrific acts to film.

      A tree falling in the forest when there is no one around to hear it fall still makes a sound and children still cried out as a result of the violation of their innocence and dignity, even if people like Mr. Smith truly believe that the problem was almost solved simply because there appeared to be an absence of photographic evidence.

      The sad and. simple truth is that children have always been at risk. But they have never been at greater risk than they are when in the “safety” of their own homes. It is a very well documented and unfortunate fact of life that fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles and family friends – even mothers – account for the overwhelming majority of all sexual abuse of children and some professionals estimate that as many as one in three females has suffered sexual abuse as a child.

      Consider the following information from the book “Perverted Justice” by Charles Patrick Ewing (Oxford University Press, 2011):

According to a report written in 2000 by Howard N. Snyder from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics entitled “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident and Offender Characteristics,” “Children were very unlikely to be sexually victimized by people they did not know.” In fact, the report gave the following statistics for different age groups of girls who were sexually abused:

– Girls ages 0-5;          51.1% family; 45.9% acquaintances; 3% strangers

– Ages 6-11;                43.8% family;  51.4% acquaintances;  4.8% strangers

– Ages 12-17;              24.3% family; 65.7% acquaintances; 10% strangers

      Since the primary objective is to effectively protect the children, we must first define the things we must endeavor to protect them from:

1) Children have a right to be protected from child sexual abuse and the furt erance of that abuse through the production of photographic images which record it.

2) Children have a right to be protected from the intentional and unintentional viewing of that recorded abuse by individuals unknown to the victims. These individuals help to perpetuate the emotional victimization of the children when they are aware that their abuse is being viewed by strangers.

      So I ask you, Mr. Smith: How does “The Child Protection Act of 2012” protect the children of this country from sexual abuse?   The clear answer is that it does not.

      There are far too many empty promises on the law books already, Mr. Smith. Another one, regardless of how nobly it is titled, is not needed. There is no room, nor is there any time to waste, on any more “professional poisoning of the public mind,” to borrow a phrase from Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.

      In a previous article, I said we must “lock the door on child pornography,” and this we must do, but we must also throw open the door of truth and examine the ugliness that lies beyond 1t and has created millions of broken-hearted and broken-spirited people in this country. It is time to do something that will create positive change in fragile lives and not just enhance political careers.

      I tear nothing down without offering a possible solution or, at least, constructive positive suggestions with which to replace that which I criticize. With that said, I now submit the following steps for addressing the aforementioned concerns and ensuring the rights of America’s children to grow up as safely as possible:

      The language of any constructive bill should clearly and emphatically require all Internet Service Providers to utilize all available technology to stem the flow of child pornography and prevent the images of horror that their filters have captured from further damaging the lives of those victimized in them. A more detailed essay on this point is contained in “A Necessary Intrusion: Perhaps the Wrong People Are Behind Bars,” an earlier posting on this blog.

      To address the root problem, that of the sexual abuse itself, I will first point out that every state has a child protective services agency that is underutilized, understaffed, underfunded and overworked. To combat child sexual abuse in America, I propose the following five items:

1) Priority funding for child protective services should be provided to allow reorganization, rededication of purpose, staff increases and restructuring to include higher standards of performance and increased levels of training specifically to recognize and deal with sexual abuse. Increased staffing levels, lower caseloads and greater  accountability will prove invaluable in any sincere effort to protect children and enhance their safety. These agencies should be a priority in every state and federal guidelines for performance goals and funding to help meet those goals should be provided.

2) Priority funding for top-level psychological assistance for discovered victims, including faith-based counseling if it is desired.

3) Make educational awareness a priority at all levels up to and including high school. Make trained counselors available and set up local and national hotlines for those too timid to come forward, ensuring that they are manned with trained, compassionate and sincere personnel – perhaps even survivors of sexual abuse.  Make certain all available education and information reaches low income, ethnic and foreign language areas in the community.

4) Interact with national child sexual abuse organizations such as “Stop the Silence” to help devise ways to reach out to victims of all ages using rallies in auditoriums and gymnasiums featuring survivors of sexual abuse as speakers to encourage victims to come forward and get help to stop the abuse.

5) Priority funding for a national ad campaign in multiple languages with radio, television, print and  billboard coverage to eliminate the silence on this subject and get victims to seek counseling assistance. These efforts should include print ads and television public service announcements detailing the existing penalties concerning illegal images; the very sentences Rep. Smith proposes to increase. A broad spectrum of the public should be made aware that the viewing, downloading, possession and trading of child pornography will result in a sentence of from five to twenty years in a federal prison and the creation and production of those images will net the offender a sentence ranging from twenty years to life.

      This list, Mr. Smith, is in no way as complete as it can be but it should serve as a solid base from which to put together a plan that will begin to affect change.

      I challenge you, and your fellow lawmakers, to get to work doing the right thing for America’s children. You just might get reelected in the process for doing something worthwhile.

      At the very least, you will be able to say you really did act to protect the children of America.

“A Toast to Toastmasters – Speaking Out for Speaking Up”

“Those who stammer will speak out plainly.”  Isaiah  32:4b  NLT

“Then there was a maiden speech, so inaudible, that it was doubted whether, after all, the young orator really did lose his virginity.”  Benjamin Disraeli

      Back on November 13, 2011 an article was posted in ‘The Chronicles’ that was written by Richard Roy regarding a very positive decision made by the administrative staff here at Oakdale FCI. That decision was to allow inmates to start a prison chapter of ‘Toastmasters’. All who were involved in making that decision should be applauded for supporting a program that has proved to have a positive effect on the lives and the character of those individuals who participate in the program and embrace its mission.

      For those not familiar with ‘Toastmasters International’, it is a worldwide organization of locally chartered ‘clubs’ formed for the purpose of providing an environment in which its members may develop oral communication and leadership skills. In a friendly, supportive atmosphere, members deliver prepared speeches to fellow members of various duration and with different objectives in mind. The speaker is then evaluated in a constructive, positive manner. Members gain confidence developing speaking skills while developing our ability to become better listeners as well.

      Many famous individuals have been Toastmasters through the years including several astronauts – James Lovell, John Young, and Walter Schirra; Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’; Former U.S. Senator John Tunney; Debbie Fields Rose, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies; and Peter Coors, chairman of Coors Brewing Company. For those who are interested, there is a wealth of information about the organization to be found on their website at Toastmasters.org.

      Even though we have met twice a month since Richard’s article, we actually just had our official chartering ceremony on August 1, in the chapel. Members, friends of members and many members of staff, including all three of our Associate Wardens, were present. The Honorable Robert D. Downing, a retired judge who was the driving force behind Toastmasters becoming welcome in the state and federal prison system here in Louisiana, was our guest speaker.

      Richard Roy and Steve Marshall (also a contributor to ‘The Chronicles’) played major roles in the program that was put on to demonstrate what takes place at a typical meeting. Both were excellent, as were the members who had roles as speakers and evaluators, as well as those with minor roles. Our mentors from the ‘street’ were proudly present to help us celebrate becoming officially chartered as the ‘New Beginnings’ Toastmasters club (our official name). Three of them come in regularly, on their own time, to assist, support, and encourage us. Two members of staff that Richard mentioned in the first article, Ms. Papillion and Ms. Smith, were also present at the ceremony. They have been with us week after week where they have seen what the rest of us have seen: Men helping each other become better, helping each other grow, and helping each other reach beyond themselves and overcome their inhibitions and fears.

      Not that it has helped me. I still have major anxiety when I have to get up before the group, even if it is for a small portion of the proceedings. I would have definitely made a better Chief of Staff than President of the United States. But I am working on it, and I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group.

      What amazes me are some of the stories told as men get up and give their first speech to the group, which is called an ‘Icebreaker’. The purpose of this first speech is to get to know the person a little better and to help the individual ease into speaking before the group by talking about a familiar topic – themselves.

      None of us here really has an excuse for the behavior that got us here, but some of these men certainly have REASONS that are far more compelling than any that I could offer. I led a sheltered, privileged existence compared to many of those around me. To think that I squandered more opportunities than many of them have ever had causes me a little embarrassment, but is inspiring as well. I ask God to use my embarrassment to help me be determined to move forward from here and never look back.

      I am proud to be a member of this fine organization, and this very special group of men. Through their courage and determination, I will overcome my fear and I will become a confident public speaker and an individual who is determined to do what I can to help others avoid what we are all going through.

      All of it except Toastmasters, of course.

      I thank all of the people who have supported us and have pledged continued and increased support in the future for this worthwhile program.


By Tony Casson

“Seek to do what is right” Zephaniah 2:3b NLT

“Courage is that virtue which champions the cause of right.” Cicero

Those who choose to serve the public are often confronted with unpleasantness and difficult decisions. Oftentimes those decisions, in order that they be correct ones which benefit society as a whole rather than one small segment of it, must fly in the face of public sentiment.

The issue of child pornography is a highly volatile, emotionally charged one, but where it is the right of parents to be emotional where children are concerned, it is the DUTY of those who serve the public to look beyond the raw emotion and examine the full impact of the decisions they must make regarding how to deal with the issue on all of its complex levels.

The United States Sentencing Commission (U.S.S.C.) is considering changes to the sentencing guidelines relating to many issues. Possession of child pornography is one of them. As distasteful as this whole business is, it has become a plague upon this nation that cannot be ignored. The U.S.S.C. is accepting public comment on this topic. I encourage all who read this to offer their own opinion in the matter, regardless of what that opinion may be. My own letter to them follows so that my opinions, and the basis for them, may be known.

You can visit cautionclick.com for more information and to obtain contact addresses. The deadline is July 23rd.

Here, then, is my letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

I would think that the volume of letters containing arguments both for and against the reduction of sentences for possession of child pornography is formidable. With the following words, I shall try to do my part to help turn the tide in favor of compassion, common sense, and commitment to working towards a sensible approach to dealing with the epidemic that has gripped our nation and threatens to squeeze the very life out of it.

My name is Tony Casson and I am a 58 year old man who has served 28 months in federal prison in Oakdale Louisiana for possession of child pornography. With ‘only’ 23 months remaining, I am considered to be one of the ‘lucky’ ones. Most of the men who occupy space here with me for similar charges have longer -some MUCH longer- sentences to serve.

None are more aware than those who serve on this commission that there is no empirical data or substantive reason to support the length of sentences imposed upon those convicted of the crime of possession of child pornography. The public outcry against men like me is justifiable on a purely emotional level. All of the anger that is directed at those who would sexually abuse and exploit a child and then exacerbate that abuse by making a digital record to forever preserve the pain, humiliation, and horrific loss of innocence is brought to bear on those who would willingly participate in the abuse by viewing and possessing those digital records.

On the surface, this would seem fair. I certainly cannot put any ‘spin’ on child pornography that will make it anything less than the horrible permanent record of innocence stolen and child sexual abuse that it is.

At the same time, it is evident to many that the wholesale incarceration of anyone and everyone who has downloaded images of this abuse is as wrong and misguided as the abuse itself.

The merciless mass jailing of ever-increasing numbers of those who possess child pornography without first affording them ANY opportunity at redemption is inconsistent with what justice should stand for in this great nation of ours. In fact, many on the commission and in the courtrooms of this country realize this. It is now time to send a strong public message to Congress that their insistence on condemning tens of thousands of otherwise hard-working, contributing members of society to destroyed lives, broken families and bleak futures will ultimately create a problem with more disastrous consequences than the problem of possession of child pornography itself.

Many victims of child sexual abuse captured in digital images that circulate on the Internet have been identified by the authorities. They all have names. They are all living, breathing human beings. They have all been severely mistreated and they are ALL deserving of all of the physical, mental, and spiritual help that they require as they struggle to put things back into a perspective that might give them peace and dignity and restore their self-esteem and their ability to trust and live normal, happy lives. They are entitled to see those who perpetuated the abuse and produced the record of it be dealt with severely.

Those whose lives are destroyed by curiosity or an addiction to pornography that leads them down this well-travelled road of looking at images that shouldn’t exist in the first place – those individuals all have names as well. And so do their children, their spouses, their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

Their names are Stanley, who received 25 years for receipt, possession, and distribution of child pornography. The FBI showed up at Stanley’s house looking for a computer that Stanley had bought for his 12 year old grandson. In a misguided attempt to protect his grandson, Stanley laid claim to the computer and all that it contained, thinking that he might get a year or two in prison. His prosecutor said that they were going to ‘make an example’ of Stanley. They ‘stacked’ his charges and sentenced him to 25 years. Stanley is now 61 tears old and has been incarcerated for 7 years. During those 7 years, Stanley has had a quadruple bypass and a stroke. Stanley’s wife has cancer and emphysema and will most likely not survive until the end of Stanley’s sentence. But that’s ok, because it is highly unlikely that Stanley himself will live to the end of it. While Stanley had a few scrapes with the law during his younger, friskier days, he lived a quiet existence for 30 years before this epidemic of indecency invaded his home, destroyed him, took all he had worked a lifetime for and condemned those who love him to live without him.

Their names are also Jason, who is 20 years old and a recent arrival, sentenced to serve 7 years. Jason has been addicted to pornography since he was 13 years old. Back then, they were his peers he was looking at. At 20, it is a crime punishable by 7 years in prison, labeling as a sex offender, and a future destroyed.

Their names are Ken, 29, sentenced to 17 1/2 years because he went to trial and lost and that angers ‘them’. He is a father, a son, a brother, and a business owner.

Their names are Rob, sentenced to 9 years. Rob is 47, a homeowner, a father, an uncle, a brother, and was a long-time employee of an airline.

Their names are Aaron, 32, sentenced to 6 years. He is a very smart man who did a very stupid thing. His daughter is growing up without him but but she loves him and is waiting for Daddy to come home.

Their names are Derek, 29, sentenced to 9 years. His mom passed away recently. They were very close. He is a former member of the Air Force and is a talented artist.

Their names are Rob, 56, a retired naval officer with years of service to his country, doing jobs he can’t even discuss. He was sentenced to 5 years for fragments of images found on unallocated space on his hard drive by NCIS. He is a father, a husband and has given this country more than most of us can imagine.

Their names are also Pete, 62, 15 years; Ben, 28, 9 years; Steve, 68, 7 1/2 years; Michael, Randy, Dave, Jesse, Phillip, Alan, Floyd, and the list goes on and on and on.

What were we thinking? Obviously, we were not thinking at all. We were, for the most part, wrapped up in a cloud of confusion where decency was not allowed to enter and common sense was left outside. We all acted as if we were devoid of the intelligence, the heart, and the morality that God gave us. We were all caught up in something immature, irresponsible, and reprehensible. Our punishments, however, far exceed anything that begins to make sense or contribute to solving this terribly invasive problem that has reached into more households in this country than we can possibly imagine.

Congress must stop making laws that act as an emotional salve and are designed to gain favor and votes. Congress must start looking for answers and those answers do NOT lie within the confines of a razor-wire enclosure. The answers are not in a sex offender registry that hides those who need watching in the midst of those who need God.

Somewhere, the courage to stand up and say, “STOP!” must be found by someone who is truly looking out for the PUBLIC good. This frightening trend of locking away this country’s future must be reversed. At risk of losing votes, Congress must stand up for what is right, not for what is easy. Congress must look for solutions to build a healthier country, not for stepping stones to a brighter political future.

In his book, “Profiles In Courage”, John F. Kennedy wrote, “It may take courage to battle one’s President, one’s party, or the overwhelming sentiment of one’s nation; but these do not compare, it seems to me, to the courage required of the senator defying the angry power of the very constituents who control his future.”

May God Himself guide all of you and give you the courage to address this horrible thing that eats at us and to recognize that incarcerating people, while it may make good business, does not make good sense.

Let us seek, resolution, not retribution. Let us fix something that is broken and not just discard it. Let us save families, not destroy them.

I thank you for your time.

If you publish this letter, as you have so many in the past, there is no need to redact my name. I have made things right with God and He and I know that I am not what some would have society think.

We are not all monsters. Most of us are men who made mistakes.

Anthony E, Casson
91153-004 A-1
Box 5000
Oakdale, La 71463

“I Am Grateful , Too”

And always be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15c NLT

Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.” –                            Herbert Hoover

Near Menlo, Iowa lies a large boulder with the following inscription on it:

“They lost legs & I walk.   They lost minds & I think.   Sometimes they lost their lives & I live.    I am grateful.”

      The boulder is called “Freedom Rock” and it is painted each year with patriotic themes by Ray “Bubba” Sorenson. This year, he was going to honor his uncle on one of the panels. But he painted a tribute to a young man named Taylor Morris instead.

      I read about this in the May 28, 2012 edition of the Des Moines Register. It was there, on the front page, where I met 23-year-old Taylor Morris.

      In a bomb blast in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Mr. Morris lost his right leg at the knee, his left leg at mid-thigh, his right arm at the wrist and his left arm at the elbow. How his major organs were spared is a miracle. But the article states that the young man is determined to move on with his life. He is still a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D. C.

      The article was accompanied by three photographs that brought me to tears and will haunt me for some time to come.

      There is a website established in his name (www.taylormorris.org) as well as one at Caring Bridge. I cannot visit them but perhaps some of you will stop in and offer words of thanks and encouragement to this young man who gave more than any country has a right to ask.

      His mother, Juli Morris, has kept an online journal for her son. Perhaps you can find her and offer her support and thanks.

      Two of the photographs show Taylor as he is today and they will take your heart and squeeze it as you see him working on sitting up with the assistance of a therapist in one and “holding” a water bottle and drinking from it as he lies in his hospital bed in the other.

      The third photograph shows a smiling Taylor shaking the hand of his proud father, Dan, on the day he graduated from Navy training to become an explosive ordinance disposal technician.

      As a father, I can feel Dan Morris’ pride as he smiles at his son and shakes his hand. Dan is wearing sunglasses in the photo. The dad in me thinks it is to cover his tears of pride.

      As a father, I can feel the pain he must now be experiencing for the sacrifice his son made for his country. There is probably anger, too, and, of course, the inevitable, “Why Taylor? Why my son?”

      As a citizen of the United States of America, I only hope that this country never forgets the sacrifice of this young man and all of the others who have died or left parts of their bodies or souls on battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq or anyone of the countless other places we have found it necessary to send our sons and daughters to settle the disputes of their fathers.

      Apart from the thousands who have made the ultimate sacrifice of life defending freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been over 1,400 individuals who have lost a limb. Over 400 of them have lost more than one. This is’ in addition to the many thousands more who have been “simply” wounded.

      As an inmate in federal prison, I hear many men grumble daily about their loss of freedom. Perhaps they would jump at the chance to trade places with Taylor Morris.

      I suspect not, however.

      As a human being, I thank God for men and women like Taylor Morris who keep me safe in my freedom, even though I chose to abuse it. I can only say, “Thank you and God bless you and watch over you, Taylor, and everyone else who has served and sacrificed for all of us . . . even those of us in prison.”

      Like “Bubba” Sorenson and millions of others, I am grateful too.

God is my Cellie

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”             – Psalms 23:1 NASB

“God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”              – William Cowper

God is my cellie.

No, I am not talking about that overweight, sixty-something man who snores in the bunk beneath me, silly. That’s Pete. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pete and he’s probably as good a person as can be found with whom to share a sleeping space that doubles as a bathroom as well. My personal habits are – hopefully – no more disgusting to him than his are to me. We don’t argue or irritate each other excessively. We both make an effort to be considerate of the other person’s need for space in an environment where there is precious little of it to let the other person have; and we both retire relatively early.

All of that said, let me turn once again to my other cellie. I am certain there will be some who will be offended at my little attempts at humor in an article concerning God; others will be offended that I am talking about Him at all; still others will blow off anything I say simply because they feel prison converts are a dime a dozen and our motives and sincerity are suspect.

That leaves the rest of you and I do hope there is someone left to continue to the end. No matter the words that I write, for the most part each one is chosen carefully.

Once again, I say, “God is my cellie.”

I am indescribably happy to be able to say that. I am humbly grateful that He did not allow me to enter this place alone. In spite of the relative safety of this particular institution, prison – even this one – is a lonely, scary place. It may not be for the most hardened among us, but for any with the least amount of civility and decency, it most certainly is. I do like to think I have retained a little of both. Were it not for God being close at hand, I cannot imagine what it would be like for me.

Contrary to what many may think, the majority of people who pass the wrong way through these gates of hell-on-earth are not converts to Christianity, or anything else for that matter. There are those living in freedoms who believe that many in prison lay claim to the discovery of God as a way of offering proof of their rehabilitation and their willingness to be involved in something uplifting and beneficial – even absolving to some extent. I would not argue that, for a few, this is the case. But I think the largest number of those seen with Bibles, making the walk to the chapel for services, partaking in Bible studies and participating in prayer groups within the individual housing units are sincere in their efforts to draw closer to the One who can truly help them change.

That said, let me just make the observation that, once a decision has been reached to move closer to God in prison, everything becomes more difficult. It is assumed by many that it is an easy thing to be a convert while incarcerated. The skeptics and the cynics would also throw in the word “convenient.” The simple truth is that, while many attempt to look to God for answers in here, actually making the change from a life of sin to a life for Him is complicated and frustrated by the prison environment, not enhanced by it. The one true benefit to pursuing a relationship with God while incarcerated should be obvious: the time available to spend in the quest for truth, peace and a renewed spirit for those who truly wish to do what is required.

Prison is an environment where the literacy rate hovers around 50% compared to the national average of 97%. The facilities, programs and opportunities to exercise one’s mind and one’s faith follow at a very distant second to those available for exercising one’s body or to entertain, rather than to educate or enlighten. The number of individuals taking advantage of recreational facilities far exceeds those seeking the mental or spiritual advancement of the library or the chapel. The number of individuals watching mind-numbing hours of mindless television; shows that only serve to point out the negative direction the values and morals of this country are taking, greatly outnumbers those trying to build a relationship with God or improve their minds. The number of people using their time to play card games, dominos, chess or role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons for hours on end dwarfs the number of those seeking answers that they obviously were not in possession of when they did whatever it was that earned them their passage here.

Those who do attempt to walk a different path than the one that led them here are faced with all of these “opportunities” to use their time differently. The urging of their friends to play ball, play cards, work out or watch TV is constant and vocal. For many, ‘going with the flow’ or ‘following the crowd’ is indicative of the behavior that lies at the root of their anti-social attitudes. Looking closely, one can see the efforts at change begin to falter. For some, being one of the guys is more attractive than being one with God.

Using my time differently than many others does not make me a better person than them. However, using my time to build a relationship with God does make me a better person than I was when I arrived. Unfortunately, even this has not lifted me as high above myself as I want to be. You see, in addition to those legitimate pursuits that can cause one to lose focus, prison life is rife with less-than legitimate pursuits which can cause one to lose sight of the prize of becoming renewed in principles, morals, attitude and character.

Even though we may be working conscientiously to move closer to God and a new way of living our lives, prison is full of “opportunities” to wander onto the wrong path. Some will continue down that path once they have rediscovered it. After all, it was once very familiar to all who reside here. Others will retreat rather quickly and get back onto the new path they were following, apologizing to God and anyone else who will listen in the process. Giving in to temptation is always regrettable but it seems as if human weakness presents no greater disadvantage anywhere than it does in a place like this.

Prison presents countless ways to continue the lives we may have led on the outside. Stories abound throughout the country about gambling, drugs, alcohol, pornography and other illicit activities that can be found within prison themselves, that can keep one at or below the level they were when they arrived here. All of these things and more make moving towards being a better Christian more difficult in prison rather than less. It is true that just as a doctor can be found amongst the sick, so can God be found amongst the sinners. Unfortunately, the devil is here as well, trying to retain those already in his ranks and to add to them if at all possible.

Recently, I succumbed to temptation in my job and was found to be doing something I had no business doing. My job was cold, wet, sometimes hard, but I liked it and it paid well by prison standards. But then stupid stepped in and I was caught removing something from the kitchen that was not mine to remove.

The exact specifics are unimportant. They are recorded as a blemish in a file I had hoped to maintain blemish-free. Suffice it to say that the result was costly. Of course, the highest cost was not the resulting loss in “grade’ that dropped my monthly pay to about $20.00 from its high closer to $100.00, although yes, that does sting. No, for me, the higher cost was the blemish. The higher cost was in the loss of the little bit of trust I had earned and the occasional sign of respect I was shown for the job I had done.

The higher cost was the disappointment I engendered in myself that I could travel so far down the right path and still find the wrong one so close by. The higher cost was in lowering myself to a level I had no desire or need to visit.

The ultimate cost was in needing to ask God for forgiveness after falling into temptation rather than asking Him for the strength to resist it in the first place. It is a comfort that His forgiveness is always available, yet it is an irritant that I always find myself in need of it.

I will offer no excuses, for I have none. There is no one to blame but myself. If I attempted to excuse my behavior by claiming that I simply joined a “game’ -that many others were playing, I would only be admitting to being a lemming headed for the cliff’s edge with all of the others.

I could make light of it and just shrug it off as most are prone to do. After all, did I not just say it was a game? I will resist that particular urge, though, and say instead that what I will do is use the opportunity to continue my efforts at transformation. I will continue to pray, to read God’s Word and to seek his wisdom. I will look for the doors that open when others close and ask Him to point me to the one that best serves His needs. I am certain only good things will come of it all.

That is one of the benefits of claiming God as my cellie.

He will help me get back those things I lost. He will also help me to stay in His “game” and no one else’s. As “I said before,

Pete is a pretty good guy and makes a decent cellie. But God is the best cellie I could ever ask for. And I doubt Pete would have a problem with that statement.

Now, to those who think that it is easy to get close to God in prison, I say, “Think again. It is not easy at all. But it is logical.”

To those who think humor is inappropriate, I say, “Nonsense! God created humor.”

To those who doubt His existence at all, I say, “For 40+ years, I was right there with you! Thank God He didn’t hold that against me when at last I needed Him and called out to Him!”

And to all the rest, I say, “Thank you for putting up with me.”

I would like to leave you with a poem written by Steve Marshall.

It is a prayer, actually, and I thank him for it:



A prayer for lost souls

Locked away

Who gaze through bars to

Greet the day.

And bless the coming

Of the night

When dreams of freedom

May take flight.

With walls as far as

They can see,

Their minds are filled with

All things free.

Watch over them please

Keep them well

And lead them safely

Back from hell.

Battle Lines – A Song


When I walked  out the door, The Devil was standing there waiting;

With his dead, icy eyes He stared at me, anticipating.

I returned his cold stare  And I asked what he wanted to do;

He said I think you know  I have come all this way just for you.

I looked straight at him And I said I must ask you to leave;

You are powerless here  For it’s in Jesus Christ I believe.

He just threw back his head And he laughed then he looked back at me;

When I’m finished with you Your faith will be gone you will see.


The lines have been drawn

 It’s to Jesus I’m sworn

To the Lord I’ll forever be true.

I will fight to the death

To my very last breath

I will never surrender to you.

With the battle lines drawn I’ve taken my stance, I’ll not waver;

With the armor of God The odds are all stacked in my favor.

The ice in his eyes Was replaced with the fires of hell;

I have been there before I remember the pain very well.

We draw back our swords And we circle to start our slow dance;

My faith is so strong That the evil one hasn’t a chance.

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“A Terrible Place for Terrible News”

 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”  2 Chronicles    NLT

“Grief is a tree that has tears for its fruit.”   Philemon

      There are three of us who work in “The Butcher Shop”. It is a refuge of sorts from the daily chaos and confusion that are part and parcel of operating an institutional foodservice facility. Although we are certainly an integral part in the maelstrom of meal preparation, our part in the process takes place in the relative peace and quiet of a 40 degree walk-in cooler that is roughly 8′ wide by 20′ long and contains a long stainless steel table, a sink, a slicer, and various racks on which to store product. When we report to work, the door is unlocked and re-locked after we enter. This is not a form of punishment or to make sure we don’t leave our posts. The lock is to safeguard the food we are working with….to make sure IT doesn’t wander off and become a part of the prison economy.

      Our business is meat, therefore, we are “The Butchers”, although “Meat Preparation Specialists” would be a more accurate title for us. Simply put, we take boxes of frozen meat and get it into and onto various pans and racks. The cooks then take it after it is prepped and work their own special brand of ‘magic’ on it (cough cough).

      As I said, there are three of us, and I have been there the longest. I am joined in that cold, damp, quiet place by two young men named Nate and Derek. Their two ages together fall one year short of equaling my own ‘ripe old age’ of 58. In age, they are both somewhere between my daughter and my son. I bear the brunt of many jokes about being the old man. I suppose I do look upon them both with a certain paternal attitude and I like them as individuals. I also feel pain for the circumstances that cause them to be in a place like this and I feel pain for the families they both have who support them and wait for the day when they return home.

      Derek and I not only work together, we share the same housing unit so we see more of each other. I have known him longer and have learned more about him and his family over the year and a half or so that he has been here. He also is second with seniority in “The Butcher Shop”. We work well together and I respect his abilities, his work ethic, his intelligence and his sense of humor even when I am on the receiving end of it. Derek is short, so I call him “Shorty”. He calls me old. We like each other.

      Derek is also a very talented learning artist and is constantly sharing with me things that he has drawn. He drew a beautiful cross for me that I taped on my coffee mug. His mom has sent him many books on drawing that he always shares with me, as well as other books on subjects that he enjoys. He is unique not only in his talents, but in the fact that his family lives very close to hear, which is a rarity. His mom pops in very frequently for visits. They are very close emotionally as well, and Derek has shared with me sheets of photos his mom has printed out for him and tells me all about the different members of his family. It is very obvious that Derek and his mom’s relationship goes beyond that of just a mother and son. She is his best friend.

      Or was. Derek’s mom passed away completely unexpectedly on Easter Sunday. She was only 52. Apparently she had a stroke, and then started hemorrhaging. Such terrible, terrible news to receive. And this….this is the most terrible place to receive news like that.

      May all of you join me in prayer for Derek, his little brother, and the rest of their family. I know this will be difficult for all of them, but especially so for someone in a place like this. There are many who receive news like that in here. Perhaps while you are at it, you can pray for them as well.

      At times like these it is hardest to trust in God and His reasons, but it is at times like this that it is the most important to do so. Derek will miss his mom, I am sure. So will I. He introduced me to her in a way, and I thought she was pretty special.

      God bless Derek, and all of you.