Friday, September 24, 2021

Grasp for a handhold, or reach for the strong hand?

When I was young I was bold to climb or descend a steep hillside when hiking in rough country. Perhaps overconfident I would scramble up for a better view of my surroundings, or down to get a close look at a flowering shrub. I often was startled to discover that a stone I grasped to pull myself up came loose and required me to shift quickly to another hoped-for support, or that a ledge I put my foot on crumbled and fell away. I feel that way about the affairs, the culture of our nation today. Things that always seemed firm come loose and leave me scrambling for another handhold or foothold. 

Trust in Jesus Christ, my new-found faith of forty years, keeps me moving with trembling assurance to the high ground where the view is bright and fresh, and the flowering shrubs may be enjoyed in peace and safety. Politics, law, and even reasonable financial security are not leading me to the grand vista and the beautiful life I desire, but gripping the hand of Jesus Christ is bringing the vista and the beauty closer and helping me continue the climb. My prayer is, when my view of the path threatens to be obscured by passions or fears, that Christ will keep my hand in his firm grasp and even squeeze it reassuringly while we move ahead.

Morning, September 24, 2021

Monday, March 29, 2021

The New Sin of the Day

Our western culture seems increasingly self-righteous. News media, entertainment, and social media seem to have made prosecutors, judges and jurors of us all. 

People regularly invent new “sins.” Others insist we focus on the sins they consider most serious while ignoring others. 

For example, to disagree with a new sexual ideology is a sin some think must be prosecuted aggressively. And one may be excoriated for failing to fight climate change with all consuming devotion.  

In short, by putting ourselves in the place of God we regularly create new causes for conflict and alienation. Not a good way to create a more united America or world. 

Isn’t it worthwhile to pause and try learning whether or not there is a God, and whether he has already spoken on such subjects? Then to seriously consider and act on what he has said?


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Stolen Election? The Opinion of an Old Prosecutor

Charges that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from President Trump have inspired reckless anger and violence in America. It is highly improbable that the election was stolen because the President could prove it if proof were available. 

A President has operatives in every federal judicial district of the United States. I mean, he appoints United States Attorneys in every one of the 94 federal judicial districts throughout the United States and territories. They serve at his pleasure. They would have reported any widespread election fraud to him through his Department of Justice. I have not heard of any such reports.

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney many years ago, I learned that among the duties of an assistant was to work late on election nights to receive reports of election misconduct. Reports might come directly to us during the day or night. More often they came to the FBI and the FBI contacted us for the go-ahead to conduct a preliminary inquiry. These resulted in a record being made that was available if a major investigation should be launched. The current Justice Manual of the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that similar procedures remain in place.

In the conflict over the 2020 presidential election results, I have not heard Justice Department records cited in support of widespread election fraud. Every United States Attorney (there are 94 ) would have reported evidence of significant election misconduct to Washington. It's their job. Moreover, all U.S. Attorneys stand to lose their jobs if the incumbent president is defeated. Again, if significant evidence of widespread election fraud existed, the President would know about it and presumably would cite it to bolster his complaint that the election was stolen. 

Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press on December 1, 2020 that the Department of Justice had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the election outcome.

I have heard of no United States Attorney reports cited in support of the President's claim so I conclude his claim of a stolen election is unsupported. What about malicious computer software?  I have heard the dramatic allegations that subversive computer software may have altered votes but I have not heard that any authority has substantiated them.

So, what should disappointed Americans do? If one’s candidate lost the election, he or she should focus on putting together a winning slate for next time. 

Douglas Smith, 2-13-2021

Friday, January 8, 2021

Review: Tammie Jo Shults, Nerves of Steel

Tammie Jo Shults, Nerves of Steel: How I Followed My Dreams, Earned My Wings, and Faced My Greatest Challenge (Nashville, W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2019)


Nerves of Steel is a story about a smart, persistent woman penetrating a man’s world and becoming a Navy fighter pilot and later an airline captain who saved over 140 lives in a catastrophic in-flight explosion. What makes the story interesting is seeing how her upbringing in a happy family led Tammie Jo Bonnelle (later Captain Tammie Jo Shults) to acquire the discipline that shaped important decisions in her eventful life. The story begins in childhood on her family’s ranch and concludes dramatically with her piloting a barely controllable airliner to a safe landing after the explosion of an engine breached the side of her Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet. She shows how challenges and obstacles in her career also blessed her, training her to think and act wisely where prospects for a good outcome looked dim. Key to dealing with seemingly hopeless situations was the Christian faith she acquired as a girl in summer camp. This faith led her to trust God for the outcome and not rely solely on her (considerable) personal and professional skills. 


Note: Military and Aviation Terminology. Having served in the Air Force, I felt comfortable with the author’s occasional use of military and aviation terminology and acronyms. She was thoughtful to provide a “Quick Reference Guide for Military Terminology” in an appendix.  Like any reader, the military terminology guide “put me in the picture” when my military and aviation memory was faded or incomplete. When using specific aviation terms, she typically added a parenthetical explanation in the main text.




Monday, December 14, 2020

Is protest good, in and of itself?

Is protest good, in and of itself? You might think so from news reports in America. In recent months we have seen pictures on tv of protests in the name of just causes where people innocent of the wrongs being protested are unjustly injured or killed and protesters destroy uninvolved homes and businesses. If this is good, we should shudder and retch at the prospect of evil! Come on Americans!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Look! A plane with no propeller!

Look! A plane with no propeller!

It was 1945. World War 2 had just ended. I was 6 years old. My friends and I were airplane nuts, collecting magazines with photos and facts about all kinds of combat airplanes. We had memorized all sorts of information about maximum speeds, service ceiling, rates of climb, and so forth.

We had seen lots of military planes over our neighborhood, making their low approaches to or takeoffs from nearby Dallas’ Love Field.

However, we had never seen an airplane fly without a propeller. Nor one that roared like a volcano.

One afternoon a neighbor across the street shouted something like, “Look! A Jap plane.”

Startled, I looked up and there it was: not a Japanese plane but a jet plane. A jet fighter plane passing low over our neighborhood with no propeller turning.

Investigating later, I learned we had seen the new P-80 “Lightning.”

The same sight would not startle kids today who have seen hundreds of prop-less jet planes pass over.

Still, when the neighbors and I saw our first jet plane we knew immediately we had entered into a new flying age. An exciting age that promised unimaginable new aircraft.

Buck Rogers was no longer just a comic strip!





Monday, August 31, 2020

The Deadly Grip of Pride

 Selfish pride imposes fantasy ethics on a real world.

Nationwide rioting followed publication of a video that shows a policeman kneeling on the neck of a man George Floyd who shortly died. The video recalled other instances of deadly misconduct by agents of law enforcement, and demonstrations arose in cities across America and continue.

A demand for just conduct by police has been one focus of the demonstrations; specifically that policemen must treat with justice and restraint prisoners and others they encounter in performance of duties. That is a demand that Americans can understand, organize to deal with, and bring about changes in the legal framework that governs police behavior. 


Hopefully a spirit of mutual respect between police and citizens will grow out of collaborative efforts to strengthen the flawed framework of discipline for rogue policemen.

Tragically, violence and visionary agendas for transforming society are filling the space for conversation about specific, reasonable and manageable reform. 

A psalm of David says: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and marvelous for me.” Psalm 31:1. This is the humble spirit I see in the grieving anger of people who have joined to peaceably seek change in the behavior that killed George Floyd. 


They are demanding do-able corrections to definable wrongs. I honor that spirit and join with them.

However, the spirit of people breaking, burning, assaulting and killing that occurs alongside gatherings of peaceable people is not the spirit to which King David referred. The violent people seem to use the heartbreak over George Floyd for a springboard to promote their conception of a new social order. Arrogance. Pride.


They are not striving to bring justice and restraint to law enforcement. Their hearts ARE lifted up; their eyes ARE raised too high: they DO occupy themselves with things too great and marvelous for them. 

The persisting violence has placed America at a crossroads: those who desire correction of rogue policemen must find a way of expressing their demands that does not provide a springboard for revolutionaries. For this to occur governors, mayors, and local leaders must honor their oaths of office and not stand on the sidelines. 


They must maintain order. 


Firmness with justice may not earn them any votes, but it may restore safety to their states, cities and neighborhoods. 


The other branch of the crossroads, standing aside as many are doing, leads to endless escalation of disorder and inconceivable harm to our citizens.


If black lives are to matter every time black people encounter police, it’s time to focus and insist on specific measurable reforms in policing. Prolonged demonstrations over nebulous issues that revolutionaries co-opt for their agendas only confuse the issue and dissipate hope.