by John Unrein
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, “The secret to victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.” The attention to detail paid by the Grain Valley Eagles football team has lifted them to a 5-0 undefeated start to the season. Consideration for the aspects of the game that are precise is apparent to anyone who has followed the Eagles this season.
Head football coaches from the high school to professional level will all tell you that culture is the hardest thing to build and has arrived in a program once accountability and intrinsic motivation is apparent among players and coaches. Grain Valley’s 38-14 victory over the visiting Kearney Bulldogs on September 25th was ripe with examples of both.
The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in all five of their contests this season. Their offense under the direction of Head Football Coach David Allie has taken advantage of what defenses have offered. Wide defensive ends have led to the Eagles running their “down” (off-tackle trap with a backside pulling guard) rushing play with much success. Inside alignment of a defensive end against a tight end means the Eagles will look to run their “George” (two pulling guards leading the quarterback sweep outside) rushing play. If a defense brings extra defenders in the “box” (area along the line of scrimmage between the offensive tackles), the Eagles will start throwing play action passes.
As easy as this sounds, it takes a coordinated effort by a coaching staff from the time they start watching film on Saturday, through teaching execution in practice of these plays against the defensive front they will face that week, to finally confirming what the defense is doing on Friday night and relaying that information via the headset to the head coach so informed decisions can be made that rack up yardage.
Kearney’s defensive scheme is a 3-3 Stack (meaning three down defensive lineman covering up three linebackers directly behind them). The goal of the defense is to protect linebackers so that they may roam freely and to break an offense’s blocking rules because of their unique alignment not being like a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. 3-3 Stack defense’s do not like seeing teams that get into unbalanced formations (multiple tight ends or a tight end and fullback to one side of the formation) because it forces them to break their “stack.” Furthermore, a 3-3 Stack defense may be susceptible to off-tackle “B Gap” plays that permit down blocks by offensive linemen that seal off the defense due to their alignment.
Grain Valley rushed the football 45 times for 265 yards, good for 5.9 yards per rush against the Bulldogs. Most of Jaxon Wyatt’s 157 yards on 31 carries was on the Eagle’s “down” play through “B Gap”. The junior running back tallied 2 rushing touchdowns as well behind the fierce effort of his offensive line.
One of the main men responsible for the Eagles success up front this year is offensive guard Jack Bailey. The senior is easy to identify not just by his size, but by the loud crack of pads that accompanies his kick out blocks when pulling. Bailey relishes his role with the team.
“Down was super successful tonight because of their ‘3-3 Stack’ alignment with one of their backers flexed out that left a huge bubble in B Gap. We would kick out their defensive end and the (play side) tackle would get up to the second level. We executed the play well repeatedly. Ear hole blocks against defenders are my favorite because they don’t know what’s coming until it’s too late,” Bailey said.
The Eagles offense routinely watches game film from the previous drive on the sideline during a game. An eye for detail prevails as assistant coaches Mike Tarrants and Gavin Grillo instruct players on their recent assignment and plays, including who to block or adjusting the path the running back should take on a play. This type of quick in game adjustment requires discipline in attention span for players and coaches and continues to pay dividends for the Eagles on the gridiron.
The play of Grain Valley’s offensive line has earned the respect of opponents as well. Greg Reynolds who was the longtime head coach of the Park Hill Trojans, now coaches the defensive line for the Oak Park Northmen. Reynolds shared with Allie after their week two matchup that the Eagles offensive line didn’t look like much until the ball is snapped. A compliment to how well the starting five for the Eagles execute their blocks.
Skill players for the Eagles offense have done their fair share of work blocking this season as well. Senior wide receiver Carter Day helped spring Wyatt down the Eagles sideline during his 27 yard jaunt during the first half. Day paid attention to detail by continuing to work his left arm under the defender in maintaining leverage and avoiding being flagged for holding.
Eagles senior quarterback Cole Keller joined in on the block party as well. Keller was the lead blocker on a 4 yard sweep by Wyatt that ended in a touchdown with under three minutes left in the first half. Grain Valley’s signal caller took out two defenders on the play by leading the way with his left shoulder. Keller was as excited coming to the Eagles sideline as he was after his two touchdown runs during the game. Keller would go on to compile 78 yards on the ground and 172 yards through the air.
Wyatt was appreciative after the win with the efforts of his teammates.
“This offense can’t do anything without our offensive line. The guys up front set the tone for what we do,” Wyatt said.
The defensive side of the football for the Eagles has shown discipline in their attention to detail as well. The growth of senior linebacker Zach Kirk is a prime illustration. Kirk shares his linebacker duties with fellow senior Hunter Newsom. Both have performed like they are attached by a bungie cord at the hip within their roles on the Eagles black shirt defense. When Newsom fills, Kirk replaces. When Kirk scrapes, Newsom shuffles that direction. This type of execution by the duo limits their opportunities in being out of position defensively.
Kirk would turn in two sacks in the win against Kearney. The first would come with :08 left in the first quarter and the next with 2:08 left in the second quarter. Both were made possible by Kirk taking the correct angle of pursuit to the quarterback on “whip” blitzes (the linebacker exchanging gaps with the defensive end) and wrapping up securely. Each sack halted the offensive momentum of Kearney’s drives.
“I want to think those around me. Me hitting someone doesn’t happen on my own. Our defensive line does a great job of holding down blockers. That allows me to make tackles for loss and sacks. This team has created something special and I want to continue the role we are on,” Kirk said.
“Getting to play next to Hunter (Newsom) is awesome. I always know he will do his job. He’s the leader of our defense and one of the best players I’ve seen in high school football. I wouldn’t want to play next to anyone else.”
Newsom added, “Zack has stepped up this year. We have great chemistry playing next to each other. There’s a high level of trust between us. Any mistakes made by us we meet with cheering for one another and moving on to the next play.”
Allie was proud of this team after their victory.
“Kearney has a reputation of being a physical football team. We answered the bell tonight,” Allie said.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We stuck to the crease we found in the running game. When they adjusted, we went to our ‘Q George’ (quarterback sweep) and play action game.”
Allie continued, “Zack (Kirk) is a program kid. He worked his tail off in the off season to get himself bigger and stronger and he’s really shined. Him and Newsom feed off each other. His desire has led him to care about doing the little things right.”
“The attitude this team has had over all is special. Especially, in the strange times we are living in. Nothing gets this team down. They want to work and enjoy playing the game.”
Grain Valley (5-0) will next visit the Fort Osage Indians (1-4) on October 2nd. Suburban Conference bragging rights will be on the line for each team.
by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Softball team improved to 15-1 with their 8-0 victory over the visiting Fort Osage Indians on September 29th. Junior Avery Huffman went the distance for the Eagles on the mound racking up 14 strikeouts across seven shutout innings. The Eagles offense backed Huffman’s strong performance with nine hits, taking extra bases on passed balls, and exploding for four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Huffman used her changeup when ahead in the count to help put away Fort Osage hitters. Huffman’s off speed offering dipped late in the zone as it crossed the plate and was hard to pick up for Indian hitters. Her efficiency in throwing strikes allowed her to work with good tempo on the mound and permitted the defense behind her to stay on their toes.
“I try to do my best each time I go out there. I have confidence in my defense behind me in their ability to make plays. That allows me to keep putting the ball over the plate,” Huffman said.
“My off speed pitch I have some days and others I don’t. It’s all by feel and today it was on. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The corners of the Eagles infield ignited their offense in the bottom of the first inning. Junior third baseman Brileigh Sims collected two RBI’s on her bases clearing double. She would be followed three batters later by sophomore first baseman Ella Clyman who’s RBI double extended Grain Valley’s lead.
“Avery (Huffman) is a great pitcher who holds the opposing team to low scores. We enjoy playing behind Avery and I am confident in our whole team,” Sims said.
“I was a little bit ahead on the ball today at the plate and that’s why I pulled a few. Trying to center it up in the zone was my approach. I think we are playing great and I hope this momentum helps us to win conference.”
Lady Eagles Head Softball Coach Garrett Ogle took advantage of the rainout on Monday before the game to take to the batting cages with his team and work on hitting. Ogle was equally pleased with what he saw at the plate by his team to go along Huffman’s excellent outing.
“Avery has been developing her changeup for a long time. As far as what count it was used in the game during a hitting sequence, that was all on our catcher Riley Downey. She calls the game for us and she did a great job today,” Olge said.
“The more significant speed drop-off in a softball changeup like Huffman has makes the timing for a hitter that much harder. A softball changeup can be twenty miles an hour less than a pitcher’s fastball.”
Ogle finished, “Our team had great at bats today collectively. Even if it wasn’t the result they wanted, we battled at the plate. This team likes to have fun, they know how to take care of business, and they like to be around one another. That makes them a joy to coach.”
The Eagles glut of games in their schedule at this point in the season will continue as they travel to play William Chrisman on October 1st. Grain Valley will then turn their attention to the Blue Springs Softball Tournament from October 2nd-3rd.
Above: Lauren Parker prepares to take a swing at bat.
Below: Avery Huffman warming up.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
by John Unrein
A fourth statue should be added to Kauffman Stadium. Currently, Ewing and Muriel Kauffman, George Brett, and Frank White are immortalized in bronze. Alex Gordon deserves to be among their company. Somewhere near left field would be the ideal location at Kauffman Stadium.
Here are the Top 10 reasons why Alex Gordon deserves a statue.
10. Gordon spent his entire 14 year major league career with the Royals after being drafted by them second overall in the first round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. The left fielder has embraced Kansas City and is proud to have only put on a Royals jersey.
9. Gordon was a three time American League All-Star selection (2013, 2014, 2015).
8. Seven Rawlings American League Gold Gloves reside on Gordon’s mantle (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019), including a Platinum Glove for his 2014 campaign. Two Rawlings Platinum Gloves are awarded annually to one player in each league (American and National). Fan voting and the Society for American Baseball Research, or Sabermetrics SDI (SABR Defensive Index) is the criteria used to select the winner for each league. Gordon’s defensive aptitude was the hallmark of his playing career and it garnered him national attention to the point he became a household name.
7. Four times during his career Gordon was in the Top Five in the American League for “Hit By Pitch.” He was first in this category during the 2019 season after being plunked 19 times. Gordon made a habit of standing closer to home plate when he had two strikes against him. The reward was twofold. Inching closer to the dish made it easier for Gordon to reach pitches on the outer half of the plate as well as being plunked if the target was inside or if the baseball got away from the pitcher. Gordon was tough enough to take a base anyway he could.
6. April 26, 2015 was the date of Alex Gordon’s greatest catch in a 5-3 losing effort against the Chicago White Sox. Gordon went on a dead sprint into foul territory in left field at Guaranteed Rate Stadium. The result was Gordon timing his jump over the wall and into the stands two rows deep amongst fans on his way to securing the baseball. Royals announcers Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler compared the feat to something done by Superman.
“When I was going over, I knew when I jumped, I was going into the stands,” Gordon shared in his post-game comments.
“I kind of had an idea of where the fence was and how low it was. I just said I gotta make the catch here and that was it.”
5. Gordon was a solid offensive player for the Royals. He compiled 1,643 base hits (6th all-time for the Royals), 357 doubles (5th all-time for the Royals), 190 home runs (4th all time for the Royals), and 749 Runs Batted In or RBI’s (6th all-time for the Royals).
4. The Fred Hutch Award Luncheon is held annually. The Hutch Award is ranked as one of the top recognitions given to a Major League Baseball Player. It identifies the player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson, the legendary pitcher and manager who died of cancer at the age of 45. The award was first handed out in 1965. The 2014 recipient was Alex Gordon.
3. Game one of the 2015 World Series saw Alex Gordon tie the game 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth with a home run to straight away center field off a fastball from New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia. It is still to this day one of the biggest clutch hits in team history.
2. Gordon displayed humility in becoming a left fielder after being deemed the franchise’s next George Brett at third base. Following a broken thumb suffered in Spring Training, Gordon began the 2010 season on a minor league rehab assignment with Class-A Advanced Wilmington. Gordon was activated from the disabled list on April 17th. He was demoted to the minors in May, where he started playing left field.
1. Gordon is a class act. Even if you pay close attention, you will not hear negative things about him as a person. Kansas City was blessed to have him share his baseball talent and personal character as a human being with us.
The Board of Aldermen met September 28th, passing a series of ordinances, hearing a presentation from the Grain Valley Partnership regarding their economic development efforts, and passing a resolution encouraging Jackson County Health Department to reduce COVID-19 related restrictions.
The resolution, similar to one recently passed in Blue Springs, cites difficulties faced by businesses, schools, and organizations in Grain Valley interpreting group gathering and social distancing rules in Phase 2.5 of the County’s Recovery Plan, and states the Board’s support for “those who have been negatively affected by the often confusing rules and Orders issued by Jackson County”.
“In response to concerns raised by residents, business owners, and other organizations within the City, the Board of Aldermen felt it appropriate to pass a resolution in support of those who are affected during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grain Valley Mayor Chuck Johnston said.
Tasha Lindsey, Executive Director of the Grain Valley Partnership, presented the organization’s annual report to the board, highlighting efforts made to attract new businesses and support existing businesses, especially given the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. Lindsey said several of the organization’s projects, including a business retention and expansion program at the top of their list of priorities, has been delayed due to COVID-19 related complications. Alderman Cleaver suggested the Partnership report to the board more than once per year; Lindsey welcomed the opportunity to update the Board more regularly on the organization’s goals and activities.
The Board also passed a series of ordinances, including the adoption of license requirements for mobile food units, merchandising guidelines on park property, an ordinance approving the final plat approval for the Valley subdivision, and an ordinance to amend code to set requirements pertaining to construction contractors operating within City limits.
The Board will meet October 6th at 6:00pm for a budget workshop in council chambers at City Hall.
Jackson County legislators unanimously approved a funding plan on September 28th to distribute $5 million in CARES Act funds to school districts within Jackson County. Grain Valley Schools will receive $167,916.38 of these funds.
The funding allocates money to the public school districts based on enrollment and poverty and allows each district significant flexibility in determining how the funds are used. Examples include but are not limited to, enhanced wireless internet services, improved education technology, mental health services, COVID-19 testing, and nutrition programs.
“The members of our Legislature have been very diligent and responsible with every single dollar the County received from the federal government to combat the unforeseen, devastating impacts of the coronavirus,” Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr said.
“Their support of this plan ensures teachers and staff have access to the resources they need to provide a quality education to our children no matter where they live. Jackson County is committed to serving our community during this critical time of need and I’d like to commend the Legislature for their valuable role in getting this important work done.”
Grain Valley Schools Superintendent Marc Snow stated the funding will provide relief in a time when state funding for schools is in decline.
“We are appreciative of the allocation of CARES Act money to help offset the increased costs associated with conducting business during a pandemic. Our teachers and staff are working harder than ever to support learning at a time when state revenues for schools are down significantly. This funding is a welcome relief,” Snow said.
Ongoing squabbles on social media among current Mayor Chuck Johnston, former mayor Mike Todd, and Grain Valley resident and Planning and Zoning Commission member Scott Shafer over the recent mayoral campaign and community campus bond issue grew even more heated in mid-September.
Former Mayor Todd posted criticism of Mayor Johnston to his former Mayor Facebook account, renamed “Grain Valley Community Advocate Michael Todd” on September 16th. Todd criticized Johnston for not lowering the City’s property tax rate after Johnston stated during the mayoral campaign that the tax should be lowered further than cuts made under Todd’s administration. Johnston replied to Todd’s statement with the following statement:
“I’m sure that the former Mayor knows that the Mayor can’t reduce taxes he can only try to influence the Board of Aldermen in those decisions. It is ultimately their decision. He also fails to mention that the City’s accounting firm had made the recommendation to the BoA (Board of Aldermen) to maintain the existing tax levy which in turn would pay off the entire city debt a year earlier and create a substantial savings in interest over the remaining term of the debt.”
Todd, Johnston, and Shafer continued to argue via Facebook, with Shafer posting a screen shot of a 2015 lawsuit filed by Diane Adams vs. Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. (OOIDA) in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Valley News was subsequently contacted by Shafer, who shared a copy of the suit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court. Shafer stated he felt compelled to visit the courthouse and request a copy of the suit after receiving emails and calls about the case from unnamed sources.
The case was filed in October 2015 and dismissed by both parties in March 2017. The suit states the plaintiff, Ms. Adams, “was subjected to an unwelcome, hostile work environment including physical and verbal harassment by supervisor Chuck Johnston, causing PTSD, anxiety, and depression.” The suit also alleges the plaintiff registered several complaints with OOIDA President Jim Johnston, and was notified Chuck Johnston would be terminated. The suit alleges Chuck Johnston was reinstated and returned as an employee on January 7, 2015.
Reached for comment, OOIDA shared the following statement regarding the case:
“Diane Adams, a former employee of OOIDA, filed a lawsuit against OOIDA in 2015 alleging that she was subject to disability discrimination in connection with her employment. OOIDA denied Ms. Adams’ allegations and vigorously defended against the lawsuit. OOIDA and Ms. Adams agreed to resolve the lawsuit after approximately more than a year of litigation, with no admission of liability by OOIDA. Because the matter has been resolved by the parties, OOIDA will not provide further comment on this matter.”
Johnston declined to comment in detail regarding the suit.
“Ms. Adams didn’t file a lawsuit against me. Her claims were against OOIDA. However, because this matter involves personnel issues relating to OOIDA and because I’m still an employee of OOIDA it would be inappropriate for me to provide any further comment on this matter,” Johnston said.
Reached for comment regarding the recent arguments via social media, Shafer and Todd point to unmet campaign promises and lack of communication on the part of Johnston as their source of frustration.
“Let’s just say people that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. You never know who’s going to throw it back,” Shafer said.
“Mr. Johnston to start with ran a campaign on a lot of misleading information on the new complex. Mr. Johnston ran on a platform of better communication, better leadership, lowering taxes, cutting wasteful spending, and how he was not only going to fix more streets, but get it done at a faster rate. So far I have not seen any of this happen, in fact the city just passed the tax levy with no change. Under Mr. Johnston’s leadership, as for wasteful spending, Mr. Johnston has ran for Mayor three or four times in the past on how he was going to stop the wasteful spending. But when asked, no reply on where the city has and is wasting tax payers money,” Shafer said.
“After asking him questions on his Mayor (Facebook) page which, he said he would reply to, I’ve not received any reply other than criticizing my spelling. I attended a City meeting, asked questions with no reply other than ‘thank you’. Whether Mr. Johnston likes me or not, I do pay taxes and should get some answers to my questions. After all, he is the one that made all these accusations and promises. I think it’s only fair he should give answers.”
“My disagreement with him is that for years he had constant complaints about me. He said I wasn’t a leader and just a yes man. He said that everything that happened in town would have happened regardless of me and that I didn’t have a part in any of it. He also complained that I wasn’t on the Residents of Grain Valley Page to respond to residents and that he didn’t like the responses I gave to citizens during the citizen comment time at Alderman meetings. He ran on a platform of better communication with residents, lowering taxes, better streets happening faster, and cutting wasteful spending,” Todd said.
“He will have been in office 100 days as of September 30 I believe, and I haven’t seen any of that. Actually, I have seen the exact opposite of that in pretty much all of those areas. I would argue that his communication has been well below what mine was. On his Facebook page he has made very few posts since becoming Mayor and most of them are him complaining about what someone has said about what he is or isn’t doing or a conflict of interest he may or may not have. He also is not responding on Residents of Grain Valley (a Facebook group) and is hiding behind the social media policy that is in place.”
“I guess the bottom line is that I spent 10 years as Mayor and Grain Valley means a lot to me. It bothers me that he ran on all these promises and we haven’t seen action towards any of them and in most cases, we have seen actions that are direct opposites of what he said. He first ran for Mayor 10 years ago so he had lots of time to prepare for this, so he should have hit the ground running on day one with his ideas, and that is not what we have seen at all. I guess I call it like I see it and right now I’m not seeing anything that he sold the citizens of Grain Valley on,” Todd said.
Public posts and comments from the trio have been quiet in recent weeks. Johnston shared he plans to discontinue responding to posts on social media to the issues raised.
“Regarding Mr. Todd and Mr. Shafer, they are private citizens and entitled to their opinions. I have already spent too much time addressing their personal attacks on me and I will not spend any additional time responding or commenting on those issues. There are too many good things happening in Grain Valley and I intend on devoting my time and efforts towards working on those and additional improvements to our City,” Johnston said.
“I’m not really sure if I’m having contractions,” my wife said, “Aren’t they supposed to hurt a little more?” My wife, close to her delivery date, was laying on a bed in an examination room of the hospital. She had been experiencing birth pangs for a little while and we decided to come in. This was our first baby and although we had attended the mandatory classes, it was all new to us.
“Sweetie, you’re not going to have this baby tonight,” the nurse said gently after examining her, “You’re only at about two centimeters. You’ve got about fourteen hours left.” However, they decided to monitor her and got her hooked up to all the equipment. We got comfortable and waited.
Not soon after, for some reason, the baby’s heartbeat dropped. A little concerned, they decided to hook her up to an internal monitor. To do so, they broke her water. A couple minutes later, my wife felt that first wave of “real” pain and grabbed me by the shirt collar and pulled me close to her. With fire in her eyes, and the voice of a drill sergeant, she said, “Get me the epidermal, now!” I stared at her in disbelief and horror, but I was not going to argue. The nurse came in to check on things and told my wife that they would call for the anesthesiologist when she was at about four centimeters. It was going to be a long night.
It just so happened that our doctor was at a seminar at the hospital that night. “I thought I would stop by and say hello,” he said with a smile. “I’ll see how you’re doing, head home and get some sleep, and come back.” He checked on my wife, sat down near us, and watched a portion of the old show, “Moonlighting” with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. “I love this show,” he said. “Are we paying for this?” I wondered. By now, about 9:15; she was at four centimeters.
At 9:38, my wife frantically tried to get off the bed saying, “I need to use the restroom.” The nurse interceded and said, “That’s a premature urge to push, but I’ll check you.” Upon inspection, there was a look of shock on the nurse’s face. My wife was now at ten centimeters.
The doctor and I quickly exited to wash our hands while medical professionals quickly rolled my wife into the delivery room. As we scrubbed up, I heard a sound of panic from the delivery room, “Doctor, your hands are clean enough! Get in here!”
We both ran into the delivery room. Nurses were attending my wife and the doctor just barely made it to the foot of the bed to deliver our baby into this world. My wife had gone from four to ten centimeters in twenty-three minutes and our daughter was born eight minutes later.
The doctor handed me a pair of scissors allowed me to cut the umbilical cord. I wondered if he was going to give me a discount for only delivering half a baby and then having me saw through this rubbery, hose-like tube.
When I was done, he then handed me this fragile, whimpering, slimy…thing! It was the grossest and most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed. Tears welled up in my eyes. This was nothing short of a miracle.
My wife and I have four children. We call them all, “our children.” To our delight, and sometimes, dismay, they have our DNA, our personality, and our mannerisms. As they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
As humans, we mistakenly think that because we are the vehicle that brings children into this world, we are also the agent and, thus, have control over the process of life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The concept of life is not just biological. That’s the byproduct. Life is primarily theological. From a theological perspective, the question to “how” we were created is actually pretty simple. God created life. In the very beginning, “God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27). As the Psalmist acknowledged, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb” (Psalm 139:13). Creation: it’s a God thing.
Mankind was created in the image of God, to rule over, and take care of the environment. Mankind is superior to all the created order and has more value than all the other creatures. It may be true that you care for your dog more than some people you know, but any human life, even people you don’t care for, have more value in God’s eyes than any other creature. Only humans were created in the image of God.
The scientific community has a lot to offer us. But when it comes to our existence, the humanistic/ontological and biblical/theological views of our existence are “kissin’ cousins.” They both begin with a leap of faith. You either believe in a Big Bang or a Big God. Either nothing created something or Someone created everything. Both are leaps of faith. Only one of those views comes with an instruction manual.
An old story is told about a group of scientists who decided to take God on in a creating contest. God went first and reached down into the dust of the earth, formed man in His hands, and breathed into him the breath of life.
The scientists were impressed, but confident. They got out their instruments and meters and said to God, “watch this.” They too reached down into the dirt… but God stopped them and said, “wait a second. I created that dirt. Go make your own dirt.”
Humans can only take raw materials that God has created to manipulate and form them into other shapes—much like a carpenter who takes a tree and makes it into a chair. He made the chair but did not grow the tree.
The question is generally asked, “when does life begin?” Thanks to science and the study of fetal development, at twenty days, the baby’s heart is in the advanced stages of formation. The eyes begin to form. The brain, spinal column, and nervous system are virtually complete. At twenty-four days, the baby’s heart begins to beat.
The answer to the question, “When does life began,” is simple. It is not a scientific question. It is a theological question. God says very simply, life begins at conception. As God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5). From the womb to the tomb, life is sacred and should be protected.
Human life has value, meaning, purpose, and accountability. God said, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen 9:6).
Mankind cannot create life, nor should he take life—except in accordance with the will of God. God allows life to be taken in a judicial sense. This is the “eye for an eye” principle. This is not to be done in vengeance, but this necessity (really obligation) is given to governmental entities (Rom 13). Similarly, governments, in order to protect their citizens, may find it necessary to engage in warfare against hostile enemies. In short, life is a gift and a trust. The Author of life is God Himself.
At the birth of our first child, we were convinced that we were having a boy. Back in the day, before advanced technology, everybody said it would be a boy. We were so convinced that we had a boy’s name picked out and some ideas of what a girl’s name might be.
In that birthing room, when the doctor said, “You have a beautiful baby girl” I said, “Yea, everybody told us it was going to be…” I was speechless. We were shocked and surprised and a little overwhelmed at the time.
However, God, the Author of life, was not shocked. From heaven, I believe God smiled and said, “Surprise!” God preordained this moment from the foundation of the world. He may also have said, “Here’s a beautiful gift Wayne. Take good care of her and make sure you tell her who gave her life—both in this world and in the next.”
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
Voters will be asked to reconsider how state legislative districts are determined through Amendment 3 on the November ballot, after voting to approve Amendment 1 in 2018. Voters approved Amendment 1 with 62% of the vote.
Amendment 3 would return the state to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer, created by the approval of Amendment 1 in 2018.
The bipartisan commissions would be renamed the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and consist of 20 members each. The amendment would also change the criteria used to draw district maps.
Included in the amendment are slight changes to the threshold of lobbyist gifts and campaign contribution limits for state senate campaigns. It would change the threshold of lobbyists' gifts from $5 to $0 and lower the campaign contribution limit for state senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.
Opponents of Amendment 3 contend it is an effort to undo the will of the people, using the issues of reducing lobbyist gifts and campaign contribution limits to detract from an effort to allow lobbyists and politicians to rig district maps.
A bipartisan group of leaders have come out in opposition to Amendment 3, including former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, former Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, as well as AARP Missouri, AFL-CIO Missouri, NAACP Missouri Conference, and Missouri NEA.
State Senator Mike Cierpiot (R – 30th District) and State Representative Jeff Coleman (R – 32nd District) both support Amendment 3.
“There are detractors who say that we are just trying to change to a method that would allow us to maintain our super majority. That is not the whole process here. We are trying to keep things the same so that we can continue to try to represent everyone instead of having districts carved up that are not representative of those communities,” Coleman said.
“Everything they (Amendment 3 opponents) say we are doing now is what they were trying to do with Amendment 1. They reduced lobbyist gifts down to $5. Why didn’t they reduce it down to zero? We are going back and trying to fix these things that should have been fixed the first time around.”
“Our caucus hired a demographer to draw district lines based on the priorities of the new law. The demographer said there’s no way to draw lines that way and create a district in the way in which the law states, which says the most important thing is to create a district that is competitive and as close to a 50/50 split as possible,” Coleman said.
Cierpiot also points to the weaknesses he sees in Amendment 1 as his reasoning for supporting Amendment 3.
“I support Amendment 3 to correct the weaknesses that passed in 2018. The old, original redistricting plans only moved forward if a bipartisan majority of a redistricting committee (14 of 20, 70% of 10 Democrats & 10 Republicans) voted for it, stopping partisan tampering. The new way turns that on its head and now it takes 14 of 20 to stop it. That means if the Democrats are happy and the Republicans are being hurt it goes into effect, or vice versa. If anyone questions the intent of those pushing this plan in 2018, ask yourself why they chose the auditor’s office to control it when other election responsibilities rest with the Secretary of State. I’m confident it was because they were quite certain the Auditor would be a Democrat,” Cierpiot said.
“There are many other parts of the 2018 amendment that are problematic. I haven’t found anyone that can say how it’s going to work with certainty. Compact and contiguous are now low on the list of descriptors for new districts where they were primary. In my view, communities of interest are what politics are all about. They must now be divided to align with the 2018 amendment.”
“And to satisfy the description of Non Partisan Demographer you have to be out of partisan politics for 4 years, meaning former Governor Nixon or former Senator Ashcroft qualify,” Cierpiot said.
Clean Missouri, the committee that sponsored Amendment 1 in 2018, is leading the campaign in opposition of the amendment. The committee maintains Amendment 3 is a last ditch effort to set up a process that will affect district maps through 2030. Opponents maintain the amendment is an effort to create unfair, noncompetitive districts to limit voters’ ability to hold leaders accountable, not count children and non-citizens, and create unprecedented restrictions on citizens’ abilities to challenge unfair maps in court.
The full resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 38) outlining details of the proposed amendment can be found at www.grainvalleynews.com.