Archive | May, 2016

Silence

20 May

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are as one with Him. Empty yourself for it is only when you realize you are empty, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

It is through prayer we talk to God, it is through prayer that He talks to us. Yet still so many say prayer is wasted time because they aren’t answered. But they are being answered, we just aren’t listening.

We were born with one mouth and two ears. This because listening is more important than talking, not only in everyday life, but especially in prayer. It is so important that you were provided two ears just so you can hear what He is telling you.

Through the the years I have heard many complaints about prayer and have talked many times on how prayer is answered. Many think that God must be ignoring them because they just aren’t getting the answers they want. I have learned that God gives me just what I need when I need it. It may be different from what I want, but it is exactly what I need.

I am reminded of my younger days when Grandfather would tell me: “Just because you don’t see His hand, don’t question His plan.” God has a plan for each and everyone of us, we just have to be patient and listen to what He whispers to our hearts.

In the bible every time Jesus prayed he went away from the crowd and prayed in seclusion. We are instructed in the bible to pray in a closet or some other place of privacy. The reason for doing this is so we can hear what His answer is. When He whispers in your ear or into your heart, it is best to be in a quiet place so you have no distractions from hearing His words.

As for myself, I am one who prays unceasingly. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

For me this has been the most efficient way to talk with God. He is always there to guide my every move and I am always looking for ways to share the blessings He has given me. We are in continuous conversation with each other.

One last thing, in every circumstance, good or bad, there is a gift waiting to.be shared. Our life grows on how we accept and share these gifts. This brings me back to what I mentioned earlier – Just because you can’t see His hand, don’t question His plan!

Walk daily with God at your side.

Love,

Ed

Advertisements

The Eighth Amendment

19 May

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The Eighth Amendment

This amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing unduly harsh penalties on criminal defendants, either as the price for obtaining pretrial release or as punishment for crime after conviction.

The Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause is the most important and controversial part of the Eighth Amendment.  In some ways, the Clause is shrouded in mystery. What does it mean for a punishment to be “cruel and unusual”? How do we measure a punishment’s cruelty? And if a punishment is cruel, why should we care whether it is “unusual”?

We do know some things about the history of the phrase “cruel and unusual punishments.” In 1689 – a full century before the ratification of the United States Constitution – England adopted a Bill of Rights that prohibited “cruell and unusuall punishments.” In 1776, George Mason included a prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments in the Declaration of Rights he drafted for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1791, this same prohibition became the central component of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

When the United States Constitution was first ratified by the states, it did not contain a Bill of Rights, and it did not prohibit cruel and unusual punishments. These protections were not added until after the Constitution was ratified. The debates that occurred while the states were deciding whether to ratify the Constitution shed some light on the meaning of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, because they show why many people thought this Clause was needed.

The proposed Constitution made the federal government much more powerful than it had been under the Articles of Confederation. One of the most significant of these new powers was the power to create federal crimes and to punish those who committed them. Opponents of the Constitution feared that this new power would allow Congress to use cruel punishments as a tool for oppressing the people. For example, Abraham Holmes argued that Congress might repeat the abuses of “that diabolical institution, the Inquisition,” and start imposing torture on those convicted of federal crimes: “They are nowhere restrained from inventing the most cruel and unheard-of punishments, and annexing them to crimes; and there is no constitutional check on them, but that racks and gibbets may be amongst the most mild instruments of their discipline.” Patrick Henry asserted, even more pointedly than Holmes, that the lack of a prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments meant that Congress could use punishment as a tool of oppression: “Congress . . . . may introduce the practice of France, Spain, and Germany of torturing, to extort a confession of the crime. They . . . will tell you that there is such a necessity of strengthening the arm of government, that they must . . . extort confession by torture, in order to punish with still more relentless severity. We are then lost and undone.” Largely as a result of these objections, the Constitution was amended to prohibit cruel and unusual punishments.

As these debates demonstrate, the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause clearly prohibits “barbaric” methods of punishment. If the federal government tried to bring back the rack, or thumbscrews, or gibbets as instruments of punishment, such efforts would pretty clearly violate the Eighth Amendment. Most people also agree that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause now limits state power as well as federal power, because the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from abridging “the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” and from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

But once we get beyond these areas of agreement, there are many areas of passionate disagreement concerning the meaning and application of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause:

First and foremost, what standard should the Court use in deciding whether a punishment is unconstitutionally cruel?  Should it look to the standards of 1791, when the Eighth Amendment was adopted? Should it look to contemporary public opinion?  Should it exercise its own moral judgment, irrespective of whether it is supported by societal consensus? Should it look to some other standard?

Second, does the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause only prohibit barbaric methods of punishment, or does it also prohibit punishments that are disproportionate to the offense? For example, would it violate the Eighth Amendment to impose a life sentence for a parking violation?

Third, does the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause prohibit the death penalty? Many argue that capital punishment fails to advance any public good, that it is of a past era, and it should be eliminated. Proponents of the death penalty argue that some people have committed such atrocious crimes that they deserve death, and that the death penalty may deter others from committing atrocious crimes. They also point out that the punishment is authorized in a majority of states, and public opinion polls continue to show broad support for it.

Finally, are some modern methods of punishment – such as the extended use of solitary confinement, or the use of a three-drug “cocktail” to execute offenders – sufficiently “barbaric” to violate the Eighth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment

18 May

The Fourth Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Imagine you’re driving a car, and a police officer spots you and pulls you over for speeding. He orders you out of the car. Maybe he wants to place you under arrest. Or maybe he wants to search your car for evidence of a crime. Can the officer do that? 

The Fourth Amendment is the part of the Constitution that gives the answer. According to the Fourth Amendment, the people have a right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This right limits the power of the police to seize and search people, their property, and their homes. 

The Fourth Amendment has been debated frequently during the last several years, as police and intelligence agencies in the United States have engaged in a number of controversial activities. The federal government has conducted bulk collection of Americans’ telephone and Internet connections as part of the War on Terror. Many municipal police forces have engaged in aggressive use of “stop and frisk.” There have been a number of highly-publicized police-citizen encounters in which the police ended up shooting a civilian. There is also concern about the use of aerial surveillance, whether by piloted aircraft or drones.

The application of the Fourth Amendment to all these activities would have surprised those who drafted it, and not only because they could not imagine the modern technologies like the Internet and drones. They also were not familiar with organized police forces like we have today. Policing in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a responsibility of the citizenry, which participated in “night watches.” Other than that, there was only a loose collection of sheriffs and constables, who lacked the tools to maintain order as the police do today. 

The primary concerns of the generation that ratified the Fourth Amendment were “general warrants” and “writs of assistance.” Famous incidents on both sides of the Atlantic gave rise to placing the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution. In Britain, the Crown employed “general warrants” to go after political enemies, leading to the famous decisions in Wilkes v. Wood (1763) and Entick v. Carrington (1765). General warrants allowed the Crown’s messengers to search without any cause to believe someone had committed an offense. In those cases the judges decided that such warrants violated English common law. In the colonies the Crown used the writs of assistance—like general warrants, but often unbounded by time restraints—to search for goods on which taxes had not been paid. James Otis challenged the writs in a Boston court; though he lost, some such as John Adams attribute this legal battle as the spark that led to the Revolution. Both controversies led to the famous notion that a person’s home is their castle, not easily invaded by the government.

Today the Fourth Amendment is understood as placing restraints on the government any time it detains (seizes) or searches a person or property. The Fourth Amendment also provides that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” The idea is that to avoid the evils of general warrants, each search or seizure should be cleared in advance by a judge, and that to get a warrant the government must show “probable cause”—a certain level of suspicion of criminal activity—to justify the search or seizure. 

To the extent that a warrant is required in theory before police can search, there are so many exceptions that in practice warrants rarely are obtained. Police can search automobiles without warrants, they can detain people on the street without them, and they can always search or seize in an emergency without going to a judge.

The way that the Fourth Amendment most commonly is put into practice is in criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court decided in the mid-twentieth century that if the police seize evidence as part of an illegal search, the evidence cannot be admitted into court. This is called the “exclusionary rule.” It is controversial because in most cases evidence is being tossed out even though it shows the person is guilty and, as a result of the police conduct, they might avoid conviction. “The criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered,” declared Benjamin Cardozo (a famous judge and ultimately Supreme Court justice). But, responded another Supreme Court justice, Louis Brandeis, “If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law.”

One of the difficult questions today is what constitutes a “search”? If the police standing in Times Square in New York watched a person planting a bomb in plain daylight, we would not think they needed a warrant or any cause. But what about installing closed circuit TV cameras on poles, or flying drones over backyards, or gathering evidence that you have given to a third party such as an Internet provider or a banker?

Another hard question is when a search is acceptable when the government has no suspicion that a person has done something wrong. Lest the answer seem to be “never,” think of airport security. Surely it is okay for the government to screen people getting on airplanes, yet the idea is as much to deter people from bringing weapons as it is to catch them—there is no “cause,” probable or otherwise, to think anyone has done anything wrong. This is the same sort of issue with bulk data collection, and possibly with gathering biometric information.

What should be clear by now is that advancing technology and the many threats that face society add up to a brew in which the Fourth Amendment will continue to play a central role. 

This is a very detailed explanation of The Fourth Amendment because it is the most abused by law enforcement today. With the provisions of the USA Patriot Act and The USA Freedom Act passed late last year, law enforcement has discovered new ways to violate your Fourth Amendment rights .

The Dream of My Heart

11 May

When the dream of your heart is one that God has planted there, a strange happiness flows into you. At that moment, all of the spiritual resources of the universe are released to help you. Your prayers are then as one with the will of God and become a channel for the Creator’s purposes for you and your world.

It isn’t that praying is something we do out of obligation or something, prayer is sharing your most secret and sensitive thoughts with God. I have found that He is the only one who listens without prejudice and judgement. He is the only one who offers a path to contentment and happiness. Prayer gives us His vision of what we can be and dreams offer a path to make that vision come true.

Disney had a song “Dreams are a wish the heart makes” that told us when we were kids that dreams are magic and happy events in our life. As a child we may just feel like that and Disney had a way of bringing out the child in all of us.

In reality God does have a dream for us and when He sets that dream in our heart a whole new sense of happiness comes alive inside us. It is then we realize what He has in mind for us to achieve in our life. The peace from having Him share your future with you is like riding on the clouds free from all burdens and restraints. He releases all the joy of heaven and surrounds you in His glorious love.

The dream of my heart was revealed to me many years ago and He has lead me along the path to make it happen. I can only express the joy in my life and the peace that comes with it. Most people who know me believe I lead a charmed life, but it is His love and peace that carries me.

I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalms 94: 18-19. Yes, I do live a blessed life for He is always there to support and comfort me. He gives me peace and to me there is nothing better.

What is the dream of your heart? Do your prayers follow that dream or are you one that dismisses it as just another fantasy in you mind? Prayers are the powerful path to your dream and following the path He provides is the gate that He opens to you.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love,

Ed