Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Halloween Story

Thanks for stopping by. I'm taking a short break from my break to share with you a timely story about Halloween. My family has long held the practice of bringing Christ into Halloween, and the following story is a reflection of how this tradition came to be.

Hopefully, most of you have read When Love Calls, the novel I wrote a few years ago. The story I'm about to share is an excerpt from the sequel, Love's Determined Grace, which is still in production and soon to be on the market, I hope. This excerpt is from Chapter Fourteen, and is a rare glimpse into the lives of the Harvey Family a few years following the conclusion of When Love Calls. I pray that you will enjoy this short intrusion into the Harvey household, and I hope that the story will help focus your walk with Christ.

The Harveys spent several months in the hospital following the tragedy surrounding the birth of their son, Alston. (I don't want to give away any of the story line.) Because of the time they spent in the hospital, they missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And now, I present to you:

Love's Determined Grace
Chapter Fourteen
Lilly deeply regretted the family didn’t get to participate in any of the fall and winter festivities that were common traditions. One snowy afternoon in January, Lilly was trying to locate a skirt that would fit her enlarged waistline, which was a trophy she collected while sitting in a hospital room daily and eating brownies nightly. As she pushed aside a long red cocktail dress, which had no hope of fitting her, she found a Halloween costume, which she’d purchased for Mariah several months before Alston was born. Mariah was continually enamored with Indian maidens, and loved to pretend that she was an Indian princess. When Lilly ran across a maiden playsuit on a closeout rack at the mall, she bought it and tucked it away until Halloween came along.

She held the costume at eye level and examined the genuine imitation leather and beads, determining that Mariah would outgrow the costume before the next Halloween. In a flash of inspiration, she decided that they would celebrate the holidays they’d missed while in Georgia. When she suggested the idea to Caton, he greeted the thought with enthusiasm. A plan was launched that afternoon which would allow the Harveys to celebrate lieu holidays throughout the month of January.

The biggest challenge with re-celebrating Halloween in January was finding a pumpkin that would be suitable to carve. The other was the fact of having no other families in the area that would participate with a trick-or-treat night. However, in reality, having other families participate was irrelevant, as they lived so remotely from other homes that they usually didn’t go door to door trick-or-treating, unless Mariah was at a party in the Village. That’s when Lilly had a second inspiration. She would incorporate the idea of Easter eggs into a trick-or-treat night. She had Jane and Susan secretly hide various chocolate treats throughout the outbuildings surrounding the big house.

The challenge of the pumpkin was left to Caton. Somehow, he managed to deliver a fairly decent pumpkin the night before the planned Halloween party. When Mariah saw her father carrying a pumpkin in his arms, she was ecstatic and hyper beyond control. Lilly was proud she ever had the idea.

The next afternoon, while Mariah was posing in her costume for photos in front of the fireplace, Caton casually asked Lilly, “So, are you going to cry like you did last year?”

She giggled at the memory and pushed him away. “Don’t you rub salt into my wounds, Mister.”

Jane, who was helping Mariah with the feather in her hair, couldn’t resist the urge to meddle into the private dispute. “So, what’s this all about?”

Lilly placed her hands on her hips and boldly declared. “Oh, Mr. Self Righteous had a melt down one Halloween when I wanted to take Mariah to the harvest festival dressed as a witch.” She glanced at Caton. “And it wasn’t last year, it was several years ago.”

Jane was enthusiastic. “There has to be a great story here. Who wants to tell it?”

Caton smirked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Lilly tisked him from afar. “Oh, please!” She looked a Jane. “I’ll tell you. In fact, it was our worst fight ever.”

Jane was all ears. “Great! Do tell!”

“Well, it happened this way. Caton has never been a big Halloween participant—which involves something about his church and his mother.”

Jane squinted as she tried to make sense of that information. “What does that mean?”

She rolled her eyes and flashed a smile at her husband. “I donno. It has something to do with Satan… or worshiping Satan on Halloween.”

“What?” Jane asked in complete surprise.

Caton grunted in disapproval and stood. “I’ll tell the story, if you don’t mind.” Lilly quietly sat back down, satisfied that she’d managed to poke the bear into getting involved. “Jane, I’ve never really celebrated Halloween as a child. I can remember one year where Mom let us dress up and go to the neighbor’s houses for trick-or-treat. Of course, we lived much closer to the Village in those days, so it wasn’t such a big deal. The only thing I remember about that night was making my Mom mad because we ate all our candy and ruined our supper. After that, we stopped participating in Halloween entirely.”

Jane was incredulous. “You’re kidding me! You stopped Halloween because you ate all your candy and got in trouble?”

He shook his head. “No, not at all. Shortly after that, several families in our church decided that Halloween was all about celebrating Satan, so we stopped interacting entirely.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

He lifted his shoulders. “No, it’s true.”

“But Halloween isn’t about worshiping Satan.”

“I know that now. But it was a bitter struggle for me to evolve to the point where I could admit that.”

“Why?”

“Because I grew up believing that way, and once you have that notion in your head, it’s hard to change. We always assumed that Halloween was evil because it was so pagan. On the other hand, Lilly grew up participating in every Halloween event that came along, so it was a day filled with fun and games for her. After Lilly and I married, she pressed me for a reason why I was so opposed to celebrating Halloween. All I knew was that I grew up believing Halloween and everything attached to it were evil. I couldn’t articulate why, but I knew I believed it.”

Lilly jumped into the conversation. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I’d never heard of anyone being offended by Halloween, and I had no idea that he would react as he did.”

“Why? What did he do?”

“I brought home a small costume of a witch with a black cat perched on her shoulder. It was the cutest outfit I’d ever seen. There were little brooms printed on the pattern, with a little kitten holding onto the broom as if it would fall off. When I saw it, I simply had to buy it. When I showed it to Caton, he acted as if I’d thrown away all of his baseball cards.”

Caton grunted at her and she whispered in a loud voice, “Which I’ll never do again. But that’s a story for another day.”

“So, go on. How did he react?”

“It was strange. At first he thought I was joking, so he laughed. When I called to Mariah and had her try on the outfit, he became irrational. He was so angry that he didn’t know what to do. Now mind you, I’m not expecting him to be opposed to Halloween. So, when he yelled at me and made Mariah change clothes, I became very upset. He was accusing me of glorifying Satan. It all seemed so unfair.”

“A miscarriage of justice, if you ask me.”

Caton replied, “We’re not asking, Jane. Thank you.”

Lilly patted her husband on the knee. “To his credit, when I challenged him to defend his position, he couldn’t answer me at that moment. But, he did the research. He discovered something that made us all reconsider what we believed.”

“What was that?”

Caton spoke. “When I traced the roots of Halloween, I discovered it originated from an ancient Celtic feast called Samhain. The druids believed that on the eve of Samhain, the veil between the physical and the supernatural was pierced, allowing witches, demons, and hobgoblins to roam the earth and harass the living. In order to protect their lives, the people would disguise themselves as demons and ghouls, and they would carve faces into gourds, lighting candles inside of them to ward off evil spirits. They would also try to appease the spirit world by leaving offerings of food and other treats.

“The Christians of the day attempted to take the pagan elements of Samhain and convert it to a holy day. They proclaimed that God had triumphed over evil, and proclaimed that Jesus had supremacy over all the superstitions. So, all Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween, was an effort by the Church to overtake the beliefs in the ghouls with the power of the Gospel.”

“Yawn. What a boring story. What’s there to get all upset about?”

He shrugged. “Honestly, it was a well intended, but misguided reaction by contemporary Christians. I mean, Halloween is heavily dominated by paganistic elements, and a lot of Christians chose to run and hide from this one night, instead of engaging it and try to bring glory to God.” He scratched his nose. “Actually, I was one of those Christians that were dead set against even acknowledging Halloween in any way whatsoever. When others told me that Halloween was a satanic holy day and that anyone participating in any Halloween related events is inadvertently worshiping Satan. But, when I admitted that I didn’t know why I believed that Halloween was evil, I was able to research the truth. I was a bit surprised at what I’d found.”

“Me too,” Lilly volunteered. “While Caton was preaching against Halloween, I was being awakened to the idea that many of the things Christians do on that day don’t necessarily bring glory to God, either. I don’t believe that it glorifies God in any way to dress as a demon from Hell, or some supernatural enemy of God. But, on the other hand, I don’t see any harm in a child dressing up as something that is innocent and harmless. Last year, Mariah dressed up as a Cabbage Patch Doll. And let me tell you, she was cute!”

“I’ll bet.”

“Wait, let me show you the pictures.” She pulled a photo album from the bookshelf and laid it open in Jane’s hands. “See? There she is.”

“Oh, she was so cute! What is that? She’s wearing glasses!” Jane turned the page. “Well now, what’s this?”

Lilly leaned forward and blushed. “Oh, that? I decided to dress up as a fairy.”

Caton leaned forward. “I remember that outfit. It was my favorite.”

Jane nodded. “I’ll bet. Look at those curves.”

Lilly was flushed red from blushing. “Caton wouldn’t let me wear it out of the house.”

“I don’t blame him. Yikes, I need to try it on and see if I can…”

“I don’t think so,” Lilly interrupted. “You would only get in trouble if you wore that outfit.”

“Jane?” Caton offered. “Lilly can wear that outfit any day she wants extra attention from me. But I refuse to let another man see her dressed as a fairy. That’s reserved only for me. Right, Baby?”

Lilly winked at him. “Darn right!”

“Now, now, you two. Settle down. So, how did Caton dress up?”

Lilly frowned. “He wouldn’t. He said it was pure foolishness to parade around in a costume.”

“What a stick in the mud.”

“Tell me about it.” She smiled and blew a kiss at her husband.

Mariah, who had been patiently waiting for the grown ups to finish their boring conversation tugged at her mother’s blouse. “When can we carve the pumpkin?”

Lilly glanced at Caton. “When do you want to do it?”

He glanced at his watch. “I was thinking of driving to town to check on the crew working at the Apple Tree Hotel, but it’s getting pretty late.” He knelt down and pulled Mariah close to him. “How about we do it now? Would that be alright?”

“Yeah!” Mariah shouted. “I’m ready.”

“How about Miss Jane? Is she ready?”

Mariah excited turned on her heals. “Are you ready, Miss Jane?”

“Why not? What are we going to do?”

Lilly explained their tradition. “We carve out the pumpkin and then Caton reads 1 Corinthians 15. It’s really simple. Sit down and watch.”

Jane sat on the hearth in front of the fireplace and watched as Caton cut a hole into the top of the pumpkin. As soon as she could, Mariah began to pull the seeds and sinew from the pumpkin’s interior. While she worked, Caton asked her, “What does the pumpkin represent?”

“Our heart.”

“What does the gunky stuff on the inside of the pumpkin represent?”

“Sin.” She loved to play this game, and she answered with gusto as she squished orange goo and seeds between her fingers.

“What does Jesus do with our hearts?”

“He takes away the sin.”

“What are we doing with the pumpkin?”

“We’re cleaning out the pumpkin, like Jesus cleans out our hearts.”

When they scraped the final gunk out of the pumpkin, Lilly carved a cross in the pumpkin, where a face would normally go. While Lilly and Mariah busied themselves with the cross, Caton picked up his Bible and read the passage from 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on resurrection, and which boldly declared that Jesus had triumphed over death. When he came to verse 55, Mariah joined him in saying, “O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?”

Caton concluded his reading with, “The sting of death is sin, and strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved family, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

“Amen,” Lilly said.

Caton then asked Mariah, “What is the purpose of the cross on our pumpkin?”

“It’s the cross that Jesus died on when He cleansed our hearts from sin.”

“Why did He die on the cross?”

“So that I wouldn’t have to.”

“To what?”

“Daddy!” she exclaimed. “To die!”

“Oh, that’s right.” Then he watched as Lilly placed a candle inside the pumpkin and touched a match to the wick. “What does the candle represent?”

“The light of the Lord in our hearts.”

“Okay, Mariah, go turn off the lights so we can see the pumpkin.”

“Yeah!” She jumped and ran to the light switch, sending the room into darkness, save the light from the fireplace and the gentle glow emanating from the pumpkin. As Mariah climbed into her mother’s lap, Lilly began to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…” Soon, all, including Jane, were singing the age-old children’s hymn.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Prioritizing

Hello. Thanks for stopping by.

I'm certain you've noticed that I've struggled to get new stories posted for your reading pleasure.

The truth is, I've been working on a very time sensitive writing project that has consumed all of my free time. My new work is titled (working title) Omega Point 2012, and is a fictional Sci-Fi story that revolves around the Maya and their prophecy that the world will end in 2012.

Your patience is appreciated. I'm very close to being finished. As of today, I have 175 typed pages, 90,000 words, 25 chapters, and about 20,000 words to go. I can have it finished by October if I really bear down. In order for me to do that, I've had to cut out all my blogging activities.

Thanks for understanding, and I'll return to action soon--I hope!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bootless Beretta Haggard, US Army

As I continue to honor those who have served us, pay special attention to this particular story. It has more twists and turns than a Texas twister!

Bootless Beretta Haggard, US Army

Born on January 24, 1973, in the Smokey Mountains near the border of Georgia, Beretta Haggard grew up in the small village of Ducktown, Tennessee. His parents moved to Ducktown when he was a child where they started working as naturalists with the Cherokee National Forrest.

Beretta was an only child, but was surrounded by animals of every sort. “Have you ever seen the Beverly Hillbillies?” he asked through a heavy Southern accent. “We were just like that! We had farm animals that were bottle fed, and Poppa even adopted a mule deer he found along the highway one day. That deer’s momma had been hit by a car and had to be put down. So, we took it in and it became a family pet.”

It was Beretta’s love for animals that generally shaped the direction his life would take. Graduating as a valedictorian from high school, he had every intention of going straight to The University of Tennessee in order to study animal science and become a veterinarian. However, his plans were interrupted when Gulf War I broke out following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. He answered the call to serve his country when President George H. Bush mobilized the 82nd Airborne to remove the Iraqi invaders from Kuwaiti soil. He enlisted in the U.S. Army late in the fall of 1990, and signed up to be an airborne infantryman. Because he was only 17, he had to have his father grant him permission.

His time in the Army was anything but uneventful. He arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, and became a proud member of the 1st Battalion, 38th infantry, a boot camp training unit, where his drill sergeant advised him how to be the best soldier he could be. Toward the end of his boot camp cycle, Beretta was the Platoon Guide for the First Platoon. Charley Company was engaged in the field training exercises called Escape and Evasion, which is a 36 hour war game designed to prepare infantrymen for combat. During the exercise, the point-man in his platoon tripped and fell into a ravine, badly gashing his leg. “I saw him go down. He landed funny when his pants leg snagged on a tree root, and the laces around his boots got tangled around the root. He was dangling off the creek bank and he hit his head. When I got to him, he was covered in blood. I thought he had a head wound, but he was bleeding from a gash on his leg. I could see that he had a deep puncture wound and that he was losing blood fast. It was an artery, ‘cause I could see the blood squirt out about five feet every time his heart beat.” Beretta gazed distantly out the window as he recalled the story to me. “I was lucky to have been an Eagle Scout. I had taken some basic first aid courses, and I remembered how to apply pressure on wounds.”

What Beretta did was nothing short of heroic. Without wasting time to cut Private Morgan from the tree, he went to work trying to stop the blood. “I had nothing to tie up the bandages, so I took the laces from my combat boots and used them to tie the bandages around his leg.” With his swift action, Beretta saved the life of Private Jimmy Morgan, who would have bled out in only minutes had he not have acted so swiftly. When the medics arrived on scene, they found Beretta wearing only one boot, but applying pressure like a seasoned paramedic. “That’s how I got the nickname, Bootless.” The name stuck with him for life.

After airborne training, Beretta became a proud member of the 82nd Airborne. He arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, just as the 82nd became the vanguard in Operation Desert Shield. Although he missed the first deployment to Operation Desert Shield, he was there for the invasion on January, 16, 1991, one week short of his 18th birthday. In the short 100-hour ground war, the 82nd drove deep into Iraq and captured thousands of Iraqi soldiers and tons of equipment, weapons, and ammunition. During that campaign, as the 82nd bore down on the entrenched Iraqi Republican Guard, Bootless Beretta Haggard received another opportunity to become a hero. His squadron was working a machine gun nest built into the side of a low rise… “We were trying to flank that machine gunner. As we approached from the right, a child, barely ten years old, spooked and ran out of that machine gun nest. We were shocked to see that a kid was hiding in there with those soldiers. But, as we came within 20 yards of that position, an Iraqi soldier threw a grenade at us. I don’t know what was worse,” he tried to explain. “Knowing that a kid came out of that hole, or realizing that he was running right into that live grenade. I didn’t really think about it. I just ran across that gunfire and did a flying tackle on that boy. The grenade exploded just as we landed in the sand.” Beretta was able to save the boy’s life, but he did so at the expense of his right leg. “My foot was still in the air when the grenade exploded. My right foot was completely severed just below the knee. I truly was bootless now!” This particular incident is even further amplified by the fact that his squad was able to seize a large stash of weapons grade plutonium by taking down that machine gun nest. Had that plutonium not been seized, it very well could have been developed into a nuclear weapon.

Thus ended Beretta’s military career. He was shipped stateside and discharged as a fully disabled veteran. But, Beretta refused to stay down. He was eligible for vocational rehabilitation with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, so he enrolled in the University of Tennessee, only this time on Uncle Sam’s ticket.

Once again graduating with honors, Beretta worked as a veterinarian for a farm and ranch clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Specializing in the care of large animals, he began to work with the local horse breeders. One case of particular interest: he was the primary care veterinarian for Five Alarm Fire, the race horse that won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, which includes the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Most avid fans of horse racing will remember that Five Alarm Fire was the thoroughbred that developed eye cancer and had the first successful eye transplant for horses. Not only that, but Beretta was able to use the cancer tissues from that case and eventually developed the cure for equestrian eye cancer, in a joint effort with the University of Kentucky. The treatment focused on creating protein resistant nuclei that target cancer cells and eventually strangle them, eliminating the cancer causing cells in a matter of weeks.

While the treatment is still in the testing phase, the Food and Drug Administration is adapting the treatment for use with humans. In each test case, the cancer cells have been removed, without a trace, from each of the human test subjects. It is entirely probable that cancer will be eradicated by the end of 2010. The creation of the Protein Resistant Nuclei prompted Beretta to become the first veterinarian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why have you not heard about this? The answer is very simple. In 1973, when Beretta’s mother learned that she was pregnant, she decided that having a baby would ruin her career path, so she had an abortion at the age of 19. When she did so, she forever altered the course of human events. Because Beretta was never born, Private Morgan, a father of twins, and a devoted husband, died from exsanguination resulting from a leg wound when he was in boot camp in Georgia. His daughters grew up without a father and became wards of the state when Mrs. Morgan committed suicide following her husband’s death. She couldn’t bear to go on without him.

Because Beretta wasn’t there to save the Iraqi boy from the grenade, Hassani died. Hassani would have been the man who would later work as an intelligence operative with the CIA, and who would locate a hidden lab in Iran where scientists were developing weapons grade smallpox. Because Hassani died as a boy, over 1500 US soldiers were exposed to the smallpox during the second Gulf war and each died from that exposure.

Because Beretta wasn’t born, he was unable to develop the cure for cancer, which was derived from a unique treatment used to cure eye cancer in a race horse.

Why haven’t you heard about Bootless Beretta Haggard? Because abortion was made legal through a monumental court case called Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Prayer of Cyrus Brown

The Prayer of Cyrus Brown
by Sam Walter Foss

“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud.
A man should pray with eyes fast-closed
And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hand should be
Austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

“Well, I pray while resting every day,”
Said Mr. Henry Pack.
“So I should think you say your prayers
While lying on your back.”

“Last year I fell in Murphy’s well—
Headfirst,” said Cyrus Brown.
“With both my knees a’stickin’ up
And my head a’pointin’ down.”

“And I made a prayer right then and there,
The best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A’standing on my head.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breakfast For Two

This is a repeat for me, but I like it and I wanted to run it again...

Breatfast For Two

The fine China rattled as breakfast was being prepared in the kitchen. Beatrice carried a stack of plates into the dining room, where Joe sat sipping a cup of coffee. As was tradition, he never looked up while the places were set, but sat brooding over his newspaper.

Joe and Beatrice had been married for thirty years and their routine was almost a work of art. Joe was always the first to arise in the morning, as he was the product of too many years of reporting for work by 7:00 AM. While he stood in front of his shaving mirror, his whistling would stir Beatrice, who would make her way into the kitchen and plug in the old coffee pot. She would stir around the house while Joe dressed, then she would crack open eggs for their family meal.

Jackie was the hardest of their four children to wake up, but in recent months, she had ballet practice earlier than normal, which forced her out of bed with minimal fighting. Jimmy, her twin brother, was very much like his father. He would rise before the sun so he could share the paper with Poppa and brush over a chapter in his text book for a morning test. Joe immensely enjoyed sharing his morning paper with Jimmy. Every day, Little Jim would peek around the corner while prying his foot into an already tied shoe and say, “what’s in the Wall Street this morning, Poppa?” He would then sit down in front of the sports, which was neatly folded by his breakfast plate.

Things were quiet this morning—too quiet. Joe sat by himself as he read the best analyst’s predictions of a bull market. He placed his cup on the corner of the table, and in a few minutes, he could hear fresh coffee being poured. “Thanks, my Love.”

“Always a pleasure to serve.” She held the pot in one hand and reached over his shoulder with the other and rubbed his chest vigorously. He grunted at her and then tried to bite her hand, which she withdrew in a shriek and said, “Don’t make me pour this coffee down your neck. So help me, I’ll do it.” She then proudly waggled back into the kitchen while Joe watched and whistled as her shapely figure disappeared around the corner. “Now there goes a fine woman, Jimmy. You’ll do good to find such a woman for yourself.” After an awkward silence, Joe looked over his paper and saw the sports section lying by Jimmy’s plate—untouched.

Joe frowned at himself for his thoughtless routine and stared at the empty plate. Things were not the same around here. Their charming tradition was about to change; in fact, it had already changed. This was their first weekday after the twins had gone to college. Joe had taken last week off work so he and Beatrice could drive to Michigan with the kids and help them settle into the dorms. Hillsdale College was an even stronger family tradition for the Langley family. Each of the men in the family had attended and graduated Hillsdale from the very first year it opened in 1844. None of the women in the family enrolled until Joe’s eldest daughter, Juliet, attended in the 80’s. In fact, Hillsdale was where Joe met Beatrice. They were in the same freshmen class, even though they rarely took the same courses…

Joe’s thoughts were suddenly closed as he realized that Beatrice was crying in the kitchen. The paper hardly hit the floor when he poked his head around the corner and saw her huddled over the stove holding a towel to her eyes.

“Bea?” He asked softly.

“Oh, I’ve ruined everything.” She folded the hand towel twice and pointed at the skillet. A large Spanish omelet sizzled in the pan, complete with sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, and small pieces of corn tortilla strips. There was enough food to feed 4 people.

Joe reached and pulled her to him as she buried her head into his chest and wept. She missed the kids. This was the first time in their marriage, save the first ten months, that they had no children underfoot. Joe felt the same longing in his heart, but it wasn’t his way to cry. He became quiet and still, and reached to turn off the burner on the stovetop. After a long minute, Beatrice sniffled and retreated to her omelet. “Oh, look at that. I’ve ruined breakfast.”

“Nonsense. I like it like that. Now let’s eat before it gets cold.”

She nodded meekly and gently sliced the omelet into 4 parts, dishing 2 pieces into their plates. She placed a bowl of salsa next to Joe’s coffee cup and began to butter her toast.

“Sit down, my Love. Eat breakfast with me.” Joe reached for her hand and she settled into her chair, placing her toast on the edge of her plate.

“You need more coffee,” she blurted out and bolted to her feet.

“No, I’m fine. Sit back down and relax for a moment.”

“I can’t let you eat breakfast without coffee.”

“I’ve endured worse in life. Now sit down.”

“But I need to start the dishes.”

“We haven’t even started to eat yet.”

“I can’t enjoy my meal if there’s a mess in the kitchen.”

“Dear, please sit with me…” His voice failed and he stared at his plate.

“Oh.” She touched her lips as concern flooded over her. “What’s wrong?”

For a moment he was silent and he drew a deep breath. “It’s just that, well…It’s too quiet. Look what a fool I am. I went and folded the sports section and placed it there for Jimmy to read.”

“Yes, right next to the plate I placed there for him.” She slowly settled into her chair. “I just miss the kids, I guess.”

“I never realized I was so comfortable around them until they were gone.” He sipped his cold coffee. “I wasted all those years.”

“Wasted? What are you talking about?”

“All those breakfasts we ate, all those mornings we sat in silence, I could have been telling the kids how much I loved them and how proud I was of them.”

She frowned. “Oh, Poppa, you did tell them those things.”

He stared into the depths of his black coffee. “Not nearly enough.”

“Nonsense. You sat quietly each morning because the kids were comfortable in the fact that you loved them and that you were proud of them. They were content just being with you. You were there for them in every way.” She stood to her feet. “They enjoyed the quiet mornings as much as you did. I think it was like a sanctuary for them, like the calm before the storm.” She walked into the kitchen and emerged with a fresh cup of coffee. “There. Now drink your coffee and be happy.”

“Thank you, my Love.”

She frowned. “At least you still have your work to go to today,” she said shortly.

He looked at her. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh, come on! I’m not going to bear my weakness and let you slide by without a thought.”

She sat on the very corner of her chair. “I’m just glad you have a good job that helps sustain our family.”

Joe sat silently and waited on Beatrice, as he learned to do so many years before. It was her way to prime the well, if you will. She would give part of her thought, which would be complete at first glance, but she really wanted Joe to investigate her, to make an effort to hear what she wanted to say. “I do have a good job,” he finally offered.

“Oh,” she started. “I do know it’s a good job…”

He placed his hand over hers. “But?”

“But what am I supposed to do?”

“What are you supposed to do? What does that mean?” He frowned as he realized his voice had more edge to it than he intended. Her statement was so unexpected that he reacted rather than acted. He was expecting her to be after him to retire, just as they had always talked. After the kids were gone to college, Joe would retire and they would travel the country, becoming camping nomads. Now he could tell by her sunken shoulders that she was starting to close her emotions to him. “I’m sorry. You just surprised me, that’s all. What do you mean?” He picked up the hand he was covering and gently rubbed her knuckles.

“You have a place in life. You’ve had the same job for thirty some odd years. Every morning it’s the same for you. You get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, and spend time with the family. That hasn’t changed much. You will still do all of those things that you have done for so long. But…” she sniffled. “What am I supposed to do?”

Joe rose to his feet and walked across the room to a Kleenex box on a corner table. He handed her a tissue and returned to his seat in silence. Beatrice dabbed tears from her eyes and began to twist the tissue into a long, thin snake. “Every day, I got up and fixed breakfast for you and the kids. Then I helped prepare homework, drive someone someplace, repair a torn skirt, fix someone’s hair, bake cupcakes for a fundraiser, go to a ballgame, chase down a prom dress, cry over a lost boyfriend, rehearse play lines…” She shrank into her chair and wept again, frail and vulnerable. “What am I supposed to do now—now that those days are gone?”

Joe sipped his coffee and handed another Kleenex across the table. Several seconds of unawkward silence passed. “Do you remember the summer I had to work in Alaska for 3 months?” He leaned back in his chair.

Her face brightened at the memory. “Oh, do I! That was the best year ever. I hated to leave.” She examined his face. “Do you think we might go back?”

“I imagine we’ll return to Alaska many more times, but do you remember how much the kids hated Alaska when we first arrived?”

She smiled. “They were miserable.”

“They were horribly miserable. They sat around and moped for days. They kept whining about how they missed their friends, and how they wanted to go to the movies or do something that was fun.”

“But we were miles and miles from any theater.”

“Or malls.”

She laughed quietly. “Or malls. They thought they had died and their lives were over.” She sat upright. “They couldn’t just drive back to town, either. We had to fly in and land on a lake. I thought Juliet was going bananas with boredom.”

“Well, that’s exactly what they did. They just sat around and cried because everything was changed. They didn’t know anyone. They didn’t have anywhere to go. They didn’t have any of the things they were used to having. But, what they failed to notice was that they were in Alaska, the most beautiful place on Earth.”

“Oh, it was so pretty. We must return this summer.”

“I’d love to go back.” He sipped his coffee. “Well, if you remember, I sat down with Little Jim and explained how he was doing everything wrong. He was waiting for the world to come to him, rather than going out and finding the world. I told him about gold mines to be discovered and caves to be explored. I gave him a copy of Jack London’s Call of the Wild, which he inhaled, and his whole perspective changed. He went out the next morning and found a beaver dam; he was so excited about finding that silly old dam, but he caught the vision. Suddenly, the great outdoors swung wide open, and he was alive. The next day he was piddling down at the creek and found a little, bitty, flake of gold, which he brought home as if it was the Heisman Trophy. That day, the girls caught the vision and I got them some gold panning equipment and they started an enterprise. They hardly found anything but dust, but they were finally happy. When that played out, Jimmy discovered fly fishing and off they’d go!”

Beatrice laughed. “We actually had to make them stop bringing home all those fish. We had trout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” She stared up at the ceiling. “What I would give to eat some of that trout again.”

“But it all started when they caught the vision of something out there that was bigger than they were. Suddenly, being miles away from home and in completely unfamiliar territory was a challenge instead of a curse. They went out and found the world instead of waiting for something to happen to them.” He folded his newspaper and pushed back his chair. “It’s about time for me to get going.” She leaned forward and kissed him; it was a long kiss. “Woman, you make a man wish he didn’t have to work everyday.”

“But if you don’t, then we will never get back to Alaska, so, get out of my house.”

He grinned at her and walked through the front door. Beatrice sat and stirred her coffee absentmindedly. For thirty minutes, she sat in silence and then stood and walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone. “Blanche? This is Bea. Good morning to you, too. Well, we had a good trip, but it was hard to leave the kids. They didn’t want us to leave, either. Yes, it is quiet here at the house, but I was thinking. Do you remember in the church bulletin about how they were looking for volunteers to help at the Senior Center? Well, I wondered if you and I might…”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Regarding Harry Potter



This week, the 6th movie in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, will hit theaters nationwide, and it is eagerly anticipated by casual viewers and die hard fans alike. When the Harry Potter phenomenon occurred, like so many of my counterparts, I immediately dismissed the boy wizard and proclaimed his blatant danger to the world. Once, I even supported a Harry Potter book burning party. That was my position for years.

That changed a couple of years ago. A friend of mine heard me lambast the series and challenged me with words along the line of: “Have you actually read the books that you so readily condemn?” Well, I had to answer honestly. No, I had not. So, while we were taking a road trip from New Mexico to San Diego, we bought the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which my wife read aloud as we drove. For several hundred miles, I braced myself to re-enforce my hatred for all things evil, only I had trouble doing so. Instead of the dark, evil sorcery that I imagined, I discovered a young man who was abused as a child, who had loyal, deserving friends, who willingly stood up for good virtues—even at great personal cost, and who openly defied evil. I found a boy who was a bit awkward and rather ordinary, who was thrust into being a hero simply because someone had to do it.

I was quick to note that the magic that existed in Harry’s world was not a result of summoning evil powers nor was it occultic by nature. Rather, it was the normal way of life for this fictional reality. I had to equate it to reading my kids fairy tales that taught a moral, or to the Chronicles of Narnia. The characters never once sought Satan for power; they simply had an ability to perform acts that ordinary people didn’t. Now, please note that I’m not endorsing the exploration of magic or magical things, but I am allowing for a distinction between Harry Potter’s world and the overt witchcraft of our reality.

What Harry’s creator, J.K. Rowling, has done, is create a world where obvious good and blatant evil exist—and the two are not mutually compatible. Rowling endorses the virtue of love, parenting, friendship, loyalty, doing the right thing, and seeking the best in people. All the while, she condemns evil and the fruits thereof. She even paints a picture that those who practice evil are known as “Death Eaters.”

Rowling does lean toward a humanistic approach when she allows that Harry has the capacity for love from within himself. The Biblical Worldview holds that we have the ability to love because God first loved us. However, Rowling never attempts to undermine traditional Judeo-Christian ethics, nor does she cast a shadow over Christianity. In fact, she politely observes the celebration of Christmas and allows references to sin as a bad element. She does not endorse Christianity, nor does she attack it. It is a neutral topic.

To me, the Harry Potter story is immensely important. It chronicles the suffering and destruction that occurs when one’s heart is evil, and it demonstrates how that evil oppresses the good. It demonstrates how evil triumphs when good men do nothing to stop it, content to ignore it for the moment. It also accounts that good will overcome evil, it only needs an ordinary man to take a stand. While it may be true that the story line grows darker with each installment, it should be recognized that the story becomes more desperate for relief from oppression.

The character of Harry Potter is a flawed boy who struggles with all the things other ordinary boys face. He is frightened by things that any rational person would be frightened by. He has a gracious and forgiving heart, and he struggles with forgiving those who seek to hurt him. Rowling does a remarkable job of making him an ordinary boy.

Now, I’m raising an ordinary boy in my own home. He is bombarded with anti-American influences, anti-Christian influences, and anti-family influences. If he can find inspiration through the courage displayed by Harry Potter, then I think he will be better off for it. In truth, I’d rather my son be influenced by Harry Potter than by Bart Simpson or Dennis Rodman. Except for the lack of Christian references, Harry Potter reflects many of the character values I hold dear. I can work with my son over the harmless spells and magical references in the story line. In fact, I openly welcome those conversations, for it gives me yet another avenue to re-instill my own Biblical Worldview into his life. I’ll readily embrace that, Biblically speaking, to participate in the world of witchcraft brings death rather than a fuller life (1 Sam. 28:6-18, Is. 8:19 and 47:12-14). That's more than enough reason for my family to watch the movies together and use them as a teaching tool, rather than hide from them hoping they go away.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dreaming

Dreaming

Walter was driving a car that was out of control. He was on a winding mountain road one minute, and then suddenly his car swerved through a curve. He broke through the guardrail and was plummeting down a mountain slope at a breakneck speed. The aspen trees at the end of a meadow seemed to bend sideways in an effort to avoid a collision when suddenly the car lifted from the ground and soared over the tops of the trees, his wheels slapping the leaves underneath him. His car-turned-airplane was climbing so rapidly that the tall mountains now seemed small to him. He banked to the right and lost control of his car again. This time he was falling. Faster and faster until he was nose diving into the same meadow. Suddenly, a cliff loomed in front of him and his car smashed mercilessly into the cliff and erupted into a ball of flame.

Walter sat up in bed, his hair soaked with sweat. He was trembling from his dream. Every night was the same. The same dream. The same results. The same death. Every night for a week he died in the same miserable accident.

It all started with the evangelist who pointed an accusing finger at him and said, “You never know when God will call your name. You never know when your life will end. You might die in a car accident on your way home tonight. If you have not repented of your sins, you had better do so now. If you wait even a few minutes, you might be waiting too long. To delay only means that you are storing up more of God’s wrath against you on the Day of Judgment. For you see, you will have to give an account of your life when you die….”

The evangelist had scared him. Walter was a sinful man, and he enjoyed his sinful life very much. Not many people had experienced as much in life as he had—and he wanted more. At first he had laughed at the preacher for saying that he, Walter, really didn’t enjoy his sinful life. Ridiculous! He experienced wine, women, and song daily. He was rich and he could afford every vice that could be purchased. He didn’t have to seek out women; they sought him. He was strong and good-looking and he had more sex than most movie stars. As of yet, he had not grown tired of it. He loved his pleasures and he planned on enjoying his life as long as he could continue to roll the dice. He expected to die of AIDS some day, but that was later. Much, much later. Today he was young and wanted to live it up. His father had died of a heart attack at the age of 40. Walter knew that most men in his family died young and wanted to enjoy himself before it was too late.

Sure, he enjoyed his pleasure, but he didn’t want to stand responsible for any of it—especially before God. That part bothered him. That and the part about dying unexpectedly. Was it time for him to settle down? Was it time to quit playing games with God?

He crawled out of his bed and looked at…Veronica? He didn’t remember her name. She was just another delicious dish that threw herself into his bed. She was gorgeous. Sure, he could turn his back on sin, but why? Why give up girls like Veronica? There were so many more out there. Tomorrow it might be Christy, or maybe Linda. He remembered a girl named Linda…and her sister! Wow! The boys at the club slapped him on the back for that. He couldn’t give it up. It was too good to stop. God could jump in the lake as far as he was concerned.

He walked into the kitchen and downed a glass of water. He drank too much last night and his mouth was dry and his eyes blurry. He sat on the couch in the lower den and scowled at the couple who had passed out and sleeping on the floor under his coffee table. He didn’t even know who they were, but it didn’t matter. During the night, one of them had vomited on his carpet and they were sleeping in it. But, they had a good time. And a good time is the only thing that will last—if you have enough money, that is. He stared out of the huge bay window and watched the moon set over the ocean, and then went back to his bedroom. Veronica had turned over and he stared at her naked body. No, he was not ready to give up and turn to God. He just loved his sin too much. He tried to wake her up, but she was too drunk to rouse. How much did she smoke and drink last night? Disappointed, he fell asleep.

Hours later he heard the floorboard creaking in his room and he rolled over. Suddenly, the hair on his neck prickled and he was staring at a dark figure next to his bed. The man wore a mask and was holding a gun, a gun that was pointing at Walter’s head. Walter tried to speak, but his voice was gone. His heart was beating so fast that he was growing dizzy. He tried to kick his feet, but he couldn’t wake up.

The figure continued to move toward him, extending the gun toward his temple. Walter tried again to cry out, but his voice was failing him. Wake up! He kept telling himself, then the gun touched his forehead and he felt the cold steel press into his skin. He wasn’t dreaming!

The voice was gruff and it scared him even more than he already was. “Is your name Walter?” He couldn’t respond. He only nodded his head. “Is that Veronica?” Again, Walter nodded. “Well, guess what, Playboy? I hope you are prepared to meet God, ‘cause you are on your way.” Walter saw his finger tighten on the gun, but never felt the bullet that sent him into eternity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pat Mitchell, USMC

I wasn't able to get this story posted last week, but better late than never, right? This story will continue in a future post...



Pat Mitchell


In 1865, the United States was reeling from the effects of the Civil War. One man in particular, an Irishman, married to a Cherokee bride, and who hailed from Douglasville, Georgia, was returning home having done his part to protect the South from the northern aggressors. By the time he returned home, Mitchell, which is the only name known, discovered that his son, Charlie Marshall Mitchell had flown the coop, in an effort to maintain peace in the house, due to an unknown grudge with his father.

Charlie, who was mixed-blood Cherokee, was caught by the powers that be and placed on a reservation in Oklahoma, where he was told to stay. He escaped the reservation and stayed on the run the rest of his life. In 1944, the U.S. Government contacted him and asked for his identity number. As far as he was concerned, they could go fly a kite. He never bothered to reply to the Government, and remained a fugitive for the remainder of his days.

Charlie met his bride near Aspermont, Texas, and they were married in 1908. A few years later, Elmo P. Mitchell, Pat, was born somewhere between McCaulley, Texas and Sylvester on January 18, 1926.

While Pat can claim to have lived in McCaulley, Texas, he actually grew up in the Lamesa and O’Donnell area. As a side note, Dan Blocker, (better known as Hoss Cartwright of the Ponderosa Ranch), was another native from O’Donnell, Texas.

Pat’s life was anything but ordinary, unless you are from a small farming town in West Texas. Back in the early 1930’s, there was little to do except to play dominoes and make music. Having grown up in a home that loved and lived for music, Pat was exposed to guitars and fiddles long before he was born. The first instrument he started played was the mandolin, but decided that it didn’t suit him. So, when the house was empty, he would take the guitar and climb up on the bed and play it until the folks came home. When he was seven years old, he played a song for his brother, who was so impressed, that within a few days Pat played his first gig at a dance in McCaulley. Thus launched a lifetime of smiles and music.

His fingers were so adept at playing music that he and his buddies formed a group called the Blue Bonnet Cowboys, and they played professionally for a brief year. As one might guess by the band’s name, they played Texas Swing, the kind you might hear coming from Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. In fact, Pat once played with some of the Bob Wills crew, and with Hugh Farr, who was with The Sons of the Pioneers. Despite his becoming a professional musician, he found the lifestyle distasteful, and bowed out of the professional gigs entirely. But he never left music.

Of course, one couldn’t depend entirely on music to make a living in the 1930’s, so he worked various jobs to help make ends meet. He worked for the National Youth Association in Lamesa, Texas, where he tried his hand at furniture making. Then he worked at an egg plant, where they made powdered eggs. Finally, he found a job working at a bakery, and it was a good match for him.

Fast forward to December 7, 1941, the day, according to President Roosevelt, that lived in infamy, when the US was catapulted into World War II via Pearl Harbor. Pat was hanging out with a group of friends in Patricia, Texas listening to the radio when the news of Japan attacking Hawaii was announced. Like most of the young men in America, he determined that he was going to join the war effort. When he turned 17, he went to Lubbock, Texas, where he stood in line for enlistment into the armed services. He happened to be in the right place at the right time to become a Marine. So, on October 13, 1943, Pat found himself in El Paso, Texas at the historic Paso del Norte Hotel for his physical and swearing in ceremony. The Marines assigned him to the South Pacific Theater; therefore he went to San Diego and Twenty-nine Palms, where he was introduced to the delicate task of Marine boot camp. Pat smiled fondly and commented, “That’s where I found out what I was. That corporal who met me as I got off the bus immediately identified me as a &$^%. Up to that point, I was unaware of this!”

Contrary to what one might believe, his time in the various Marine schools was not entirely pleasant. One day, he got cross-wise with a sergeant and got KP duty for 30 days. Once he got off that duty, something else happened and he did an additional 30 days. By this time, he had figured out that KP wasn’t as bad as some made it out to be, and volunteered for 30 more days. Before long, they made him the Scullery Chief!

When the Marines looked at Pat’s background, they saw that he had worked as a furniture builder and concluded that he should be in construction, despite his attempts to become a cook. After his training in Miramar, California, he shipped out for Hawaii, and eventually to the Marshall Islands, where he was a maintenance man, trying to keep the base in good order. That wouldn’t last long, because the push to Okinawa and the Japanese mainland was well underway.

On April 1, 1945, the battle for Okinawa began when the Tenth Army landed on Higashi beach on L-Day. Yomitan Airstrip was secured while Japanese planes were still trying to land. Pat’s combat engineers were the first echelon to set up camp in an attempt to preserve and maintain the airstrip for American use. In the days that followed, some of the most desperate fighting occurred as Japan was frantic to regain its hold on the island. From April the 6th through the 18th, 400 Kamikaze planes made an all-out effort against Okinawa Island, Ryukyu Islands, and the various local shipping and beach heads. In that time, two destroyers, two ammunition ships, a mine sweeper, and an LST are sunk due to Japanese attacks, while other vessels are damaged.

The HQ AAF (Twentieth Air Force) reported that in missions numbered 70 to 75: 118 B-29s bombed airfields at Tachiarai, Kokubu, Izumi, Nittagahara, and 2 at Kanoya, Japan; 5 others attacked targets of opportunity. Up through May 11, XXI Bomber Command devoted 75 per cent of its combat effort to support of the Okinawa campaign. During this period, the American B-29s flew more than 2,100 sorties against 17 airfields on Kyushu and Shikoku Islands which were dispatching air attacks (including Kamikaze raids) against USN and USMC forces. On a short side note, Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle was killed on Ie Shima by a sniper during this campaign.


Sugar Loaf Hill

And where was Pat when all of this was happening? He was still on the airfield trying to repair the damage done by Japanese bombers and artillery. One day, three Betty Bomber, a Japanese aircraft, crashed into their airfield in a kamikaze run. They spent several hours trying to round up the crews of the planes, who attempted to carry out more of their sabotage mission. The Japanese also had a series of tunnels they had built into Sugar Loaf Hill, which overlooked the runway, where they could bring artillery on line to bombard the airstrip. (Part of a complex of three hills, Sugar Loaf formed the western anchor of General Mitsuru Ushijima's Shuri Line, which stretched from coast to coast across the island. Sugar Loaf was critical to the defense of that line, preventing U.S. forces from turning the Japanese flank).

Most of the Japanese efforts to bombard the airfield were nothing more than a nuisance, but it was a constant one. Daily, the Japanese attempted to destroy the airfield in an effort to turn the tide of the battle. In May, the Marines and the 10th Army took Sugar Loaf Hill, which guarded the entrance to the Japanese 32nd Army and the road to Naha. However, the Marines paid a dear price for it, losing thousands of men to death, wounds, and combat fatigue. It wasn’t until May 18 that Sugar Loaf was finally seized. Two days later, the Japanese mounted a battalion-sized counterattack in an effort to regain their lost position, but the Marines held the line. All of this activity was occurring in Pat’s immediate area. When the wounded started rolling in from the front, he and his crew spent their free time visiting the various evacuation hospitals in the area and playing music for the wounded. During the day they maintained the airfield. During the night they would play, and then return to the airfield to their quarters. Several times they traded their guitars and fiddles for M-1 riffles and Colt .45s, for the war was still raging.

When I asked Pat what the most memorable moment in Okinawa was, and he smiled wryly and said, “We were in Buckner’s Bay on a Kaiser Coffin (a transport boat built by Kaiser) when we heard that the Japanese had signed an unconditional surrender. Within the hour, they turned around and we started home.” Literally, they returned state-side on the day the armistice was signed. He and several thousand Marines had long since earned enough points to return home, and they had been in a holding pattern waiting for their orders. So, when the Japanese surrendered, they sailed back across the Pacific to California. Before long, Corporal Mitchell found himself as a civilian.

He returned to Lamesa, Texas and went back to work at the bakery for several years. During this time, he became acquainted with a young lady named Nettie Mae Taylor, who worked as a soda jerk at the local drug store. Feeling compelled to buy the occasional soda, they became better friends due to his frequent visits. On January 19th, 1947, he took her as his bride and they began a happy life together. He got a job offer working in the newly developing oil fields, which took him to Carlsbad, New Mexico. While between jobs, he accepted employment in the potash mines in Carlsbad, where he worked until he retired in 1989.

Of course, this is only a snapshot of Pat’s life. There are still a few more important things you need to know about him. Pat grew up attending a Baptist Church, and he came to know the Lord when he was seven years old in the McCaulley First Baptist Church. While he freely admits there were days he didn’t take religion very seriously, he had a life-long commitment to the Lord, and lived his life accordingly. I suspect this was part of the reason he found being a professional musician to be counter-productive. In 1995, he was inducted into the New Mexico Hall of Fame for fiddling. If you visit Pat’s Place, his work shop/music barn behind his house, you will see that his walls are adorned with more than 50 first and second place awards from the various competitions he undertook.

Pat also had a brother, T.C. Mitchell who served in the Army and was an occupation force member in Japan for some of the months immediately following the war.

Recently in 2007, Pat lost the love of his life, the ever smiling Nettie, whom we dearly miss.

If you are in the mood for some really good fiddle music, you can find Pat and his group making music like nobody’s business in his shop, Pat’s Place on Tuesday evenings. And if you happen to see a man whose gentle smile and graceful fingers making musical notes melt like butter, then you know you’ve found a man worth talking about: Corporal Pat Mitchell, USMC.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day, Everyone!

Normally, I would have a vet bio posted for Memorial Day, but I wasn't able to get one edited in time to post it. So, I'll get it up in the next few days. In the meantime, I do want to make some observations.

If you haven't yet watched the film, The Fighting Sullivans, you must do so. It's a true story about the 5 Sullivan brothers who enlist in the Navy following Pearl Harbor. They sought and received permission from the Navy to serve on the same ship, and in doing so, established new protocols for brothers in the armed services. In fact, they had such a profound impact on the Navy that TWO ships have been christened "The Sullivans" in their honor. This is an important film, and it is a must see. Please add it to your netflix list and make it happen!

Now, in my efforts to celebrate and remember those who gave their lives to protect my freedom, I want to offer a special deal to veterans and to those currently serving:
I will give each soldier an autographed copy of my book. They only need to send me an email with shipping directions. traviswinman{at}yahoo.com.

When Love Calls is a Christian based love story, but more men have read it than women, so don't let that be a deterrent. I have included helicopter evacuations, fist fights, emergency ICU surgeries, stellar car crashes, and moments of desperation. I also added varying levels of mushy stuff, so I could keep my target audience happy... But ask anyone who's taken the time to read it, it is an exciting love story!

Whenever I travel, I try to keep some copies on me to give to soldiers. Normally I target the females in uniform, but soldier beware!, if I see you, you will probably get a book! It's the least I can do for those who are standing between me and those who wish me harm. Thanks for all you are doing, for it is much appreciated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grandma's Eye

I'm trying to get you in the mood for the upcoming Iron Poet contest, which will soon occur. So, I'm going to open the vault let out another non-sensical poetic masterpiece, dubiously speaking.

Remarkably, this is based on a true story!
_____________________________

Grandma’s Eye

When Grandma sneezed
Her eye popped out
And rolled to the back of church.

When the preacher heard
The sound
It left him in a lurch.

Never before
Had it happened;
Her eye was made of glass

And if you saw her
On the street,
She’d show it if you asked.

When it stopped
They picked it up
And passed it back to her.

She thanked them kindly
Grabbed a rag,
And cleaned it as it were.

Back it went
Into her head
She gave it little thought.

So waste not time
Dwelling there,
It came to all but naught.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Camping Trip

I don't publish my poetry very often. There's no good reason why, except I don't really enjoy reading most poetry, and so I assume that most people don't care for it either. I've never been the kind of person who "gets" Shakespeare. I enjoy reading some of the older poets such as Poe and Frost and the like, and I really like Eugene Field. But, for the most part, I won't go out of my way to read a good poem. That being said, I'm going to offer you one of my own. The Camping Trip was never intended to be anything other than a documentary of my son's first camping trip. But, it's a fun poem, so I hope you enjoy it. Please, there are no hidden messages within these words. I know, for me that's an accomplishment, but this is nothing short of mindless amusement.

The Camping Trip

Little Seth was one year old
He knew neither hot nor cold.
He ran around inside the camp
Whether it was dry or damp.
He ran in the grass and through the rocks
Took off his shoes and ran in his socks!

His mama chased him everywhere
Always scared she heard a bear.
But no bears were ever found
And little buddy ran around and ‘round.
He picked up sticks to eat them whole
He even put them in a bowl.

He wouldn’t ever stop to rest
Even when the sun did crest
The mountains on the eastern slope
He faced the darkness with new hope.
He hoped to count the stars above
The sleepiness away he shoved.

The threw his dog into the flame
His franks would never be the same.
His marshmallow glowed in the dark
When it finally caught a spark.
He ate it up very quickly
But his fingers still got sticky.

His mama tried to put him down
So he could sleep safe and sound.
But he had no desire
To leave his place by the fire.
But once she had him in his bed
He became a sleepy head.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nothing

I've been out of pocket the last few weeks...okay, the last month and a half. Well, I'm not entirely back into my routine. I have a couple of trips to make yet. By the time June is gone, I will have stood on the Atlantic Ocean twice and the Pacific Ocean twice. Within the last 9 months (this is the fun part of traveling) I will get to take my kids to both Disneyland and Disney World. Considering that I currently reside in New Mexico (I'm still a Texan. I'm just living in one of our western counties for the moment), it's quite an accomplishment to pull off these events. I hope to gain enough time in my week to start visiting all of you again. Well, enough about me.
I saw in the news a few weeks ago that an astronaut was trying to convince the world that aliens exist. That reminded me of a story that I posted back in 2007. I decided to dust this story off and recycle (my only efforts at being green). I think you will appreciate the value of this story.

Nothing
Bret Simmons walked into the room and held the door open for Doctor Hal Reed then gingerly shut it behind them. He stood breathless for a moment, “This is very impressive. I have never seen such an elaborate laboratory.”

Simmons smiled graciously. “Thank you, Dr. Reed, coming from a man of your esteem, your words mean a great deal. We are looking forward to working with you.”

“About that,” began Dr. Reed, “what exactly did you want from me?”

“I wanted to hire you to make something.” He paused for effect, “Something big.” When he said “big” his voice grew in awe.

“You were so secretive; I hardly knew what to think.”

“Yes, that is why I paid you so handsomely.”

“Handsomely? I should think so. With the money you paid me, I will be able to continue my research for years to come. You were most generous.”

Simmons waved him off, “think nothing of it. I have followed your research on the beginning moments of evolution for quite some time.”

“You flatter me, of course.”

“None sense.” Simmons cut to the chase, “ I assume that you are a fellow atheist.”
Dr. Reed looked down at his feet. “Well, let’s say this: I am eagerly seeking to prove there is no God.”

“Very well,” Simmons mused. “You may say it however you please, just so that you succeed.” His voice grew irrational. “These…idiotic…religionists just won’t shut up! That’s why I paid you so dearly, out of my pocket, and paid you in advance.”

“Well then, what is our business here?” Dr. Reed seemed eager.

Simmons motioned to a conference table across the room and they took seats around it. “I want you to make the greatest scientific discovery of all time. Moreover, I want you to get full credit for it. I want you to make something, anything, out of nothing.” He clasped his hands together in delight.

Reed leaned forward, “I beg your pardon?”

“I want you to make something out of nothing.” He was matter of fact.

“But,” Dr. Reed stuttered, “How? With what?”

He shrugged, “I don’t care. Just create something.”

“What do you expect me to use?”

“Nothing. Something from nothing.” He repeated.

“I must have something to start with. All matter must have basic building blocks.”

“Like atoms?” asked Simmons.

“Yes, atoms would do nicely for a start.” Reed wasn’t sure if he should laugh.

“Oh no, that won’t do at all,” dismissed Simmons. “You must do it with nothing.”

“But I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I don’t know how.” He was sincere.

“But you are a scientist.”

“So?”

“You are a Big Bang theorist. Surely you must know something about it.”

Dr. Reed’s pride was injured. “Well, of course I do. I am the leading researcher on evolutionary models.”

“That is why I hired you. You are the best.”

Reed shrugged, “But I can’t do this.”

“What do you mean?”

“No one can do what you are asking. It’s not humanly possible.”

Simmons was cross. “Don’t even start that, Doctor. That’s why we must succeed.”

“Why? I’m not sure I follow you.”

“We must prove the Creationists wrong.”

“Why?”

“If they are right then that means I am wrong. It means that there is a God. Do this and prove them wrong.”

Reed shook his head in disbelief. “But I have nothing to start with.”

“There was nothing before the Big Bang,” bantered Simmons.

Dr. Reed swallowed, “Well, there could have been. I mean, there could have been some swirling gasses.”

Simmons leaned forward, “Okay, where did the gasses come from?”

Reed threw up his hands, “I don’t know! Maybe from a previous Big Bang.”

“How’s that?”

“Well,” Reed’s eyes widened, “I surmise that the entire universe is in a great cycle, a long, continuous cycle of beginning and end.”

“Okay, go on…”

“You see, the universe expands into substance and contracts into nothing, leaving only swirling gasses. Then it starts all over again.”

“Okay. What causes the gasses to swirl? I mean, in the absence of solar winds to stir them, or gravity to pull them, what starts the swirling?”

Reed shrugged, “I don’t know.”

Simmons was incredulous. “You don’t know? How is that possible?”

“Actually,” he looked down at his feet. “I might be leaning toward a creator.”

“What?” Simmons shrieked. “But you said…”

“Well, consider it.” He waved a hand in the air and dismissed Simmons concerns. “What about this building?”

“What about it?”

“Where did it come from?”

“Huh? I had to build it.”

“Exactly!” Simmons blank stare probed him to elaborate. “If there is a creation, there must be a creator.”

“A creator?” Simmons was starting to panic.

“Of course. Think of the Mona Lisa.”

“The Mona Lisa…” Simmons repeated.

“Do you think that paint just fell onto a canvas? No, she has a design. There must be a designer.”

Simmons stood up, and then sat down again. “So what are you saying?”

“Someone, not God, created the universe.”

“Who else has the power to create a universe if not God?” Simmons face turned red. “Not that God has the power, but…oh, you know what I mean.”

“Aliens,” Reed said smugly.

“Oh brother.” Simmons groaned.

“Yes! Can’t you see? Aliens created our universe.”

“With what?”

“Swirling gasses.”

“Back to the gas again.” He placed a hand on his chest and groaned. “Then where did the aliens come from?”

“I haven't gotten that far.”

“But, just a few months ago you were certain that there was no creator.”

“Yes, yes, I know. But that just doesn’t make sense. Logically, I can’t make any sense out of it. To think that all of this evolved out of nothing?” He stood and walked to the window. “Take just the sun alone--why imagine it! One million Earths would fit inside of it. And to think, by chance it was 93,000,000 miles from Earth. Any closer and we would burn up. Any farther and we would freeze. And it’s not even a big star; it’s just a smaller average star.

“The sun evaporates seawater, which causes clouds to form. The clouds are driven by the wind and rise to heights taller than mountains, giving the rain needed to sustain life, and purifying the air at the same time. That couldn’t happen by chance.” He observed Simmons rubbing his chest and moaning. “And to think that chance created the human heart. And chance formed the ribs within a human body in the womb? And the human mind, with its unending complex thoughts and desires? Could chance have made all of this? It makes you think.”

Simmons had enough. “But, I…”

“Yes of course! The eye!” Reed was excited. “It has over 43,000,000 nerve endings in it. We can’t even make one nerve cell, much less a functioning human eye.”

“But we evolved slowly.”

Reed shot back at him, “Did we? At what point did our blind nerve cells work in concert to create sight? At what point did our lungs develop the capacity to process oxygen? Can you imagine how awkward the stage was between breathing atmosphere and breathing with gills? At what point did both a male and a female coexist long enough to copulate? I don’t think so, Mr. Simmons!” Reed was parading around as if on a crusade.

Simmons was absolute. “That’s all fine, but I am not prepared to believe in God.”

“Ah yes, God. Me neither. If there is a God, and He is the Creator, then we would be created also, implying that we might be accountable to Him. I am not ready to believe in Him, either. I like my life just as it is.”

“Fascinating.” Simmons mused. “How, then, did the Earth come to be?”

“Aliens.” Dr. Reed nodded in satisfaction, quite proud of himself.

“Aliens?” Simmons paused. “That seems hard to believe, too. After all, they had to come from somewhere also.”

“Perhaps, but the alternative is rather unpleasant.”

“So, then,” Simmons committed, “Aliens?”

“Aliens.” Dr. Reed nodded in approval.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15--A Day That Forever Changed the World

Grit your teeth, bite your tongue, weep, wail, and get out your checkbook and write one to Uncle Sam, for April 15th is upon us. People all over America will experience tremendous heartburn and anxiety, and all for the cause of money. There are a few grim reasons for dreading the 15th, but few of them concern our cash supply, or lack thereof. Journey with me through one day that has forever changed the course of our history….

April 14th. A cruise ship plows quietly through ghostly still waters on a dimly lit night, unaware that she was about to create an incident that would forever alter nautical laws and traditions. Her captain was sound asleep in his extraordinarily comfortable quarters. Never before had such comfort been built for the purposes of luxury and everyone was taking full advantage of their fortune. Telegrams were constantly being sent over a newly developed telegraph system for ocean voyages; the rich were showing off their prestige. In fact, so many messages were sent that the lineman had to issue a command to all other ships in the area, “shut up and get off the line” due to their transmissions concerning icebergs floating into the northern routes. The accommodations were so posh that even the third class and crew’s quarters were better than the first class on most contemporary ships. Truly, the lap of luxury was at the customer’s beck and call. After all, a ticket on this ship cost several thousand dollars, why shouldn’t the rich boast of their achievements? Then the night watchman, from the crow’s nest, signaled, “ICEBERG AHEAD”, and the world would never be the same.

April 15th. The great ship was mortally wounded, her flood compartments were full, and the metal beast was about the split in half due to the pressure on her hull. Electric lights were flickering off and on as screaming passengers and crews fought to maintain control and panic in their efforts to save lives. Women and children were evacuated as quickly as possible, while the men dressed in their finest attire and went to the lounge for a last brandy and cigar. For there weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone on board, some one had to die, the men immediately recognized their duty and held their heads up as they sacrificed all they ever would be for their families. Of the 2228 people on board, 705 survived to tell the truth about that horrible night. A ship named the Carpathia rescued the survivors and became known as the “ship of widows.”

When the Titanic sank in 1912, the world reeled in shock at the loss. Shortly thereafter, the Commerce Act of 1912 went into effect that forever altered our naval laws. One of the foremost of the laws stated that radio operators could not turn off their radios for the night and go to bed. The Coast Guard was formed to keep a watch out for icebergs. The Titanic also coined the term, posh, which was an acronym for Port-side Over, Starboard Home.

April 14th. A war torn nation was welcoming a permanent declaration of peace, for a full surrender had occurred less than a week before. The war was all but over. At last, American lives would no longer be lost fighting to preserve rights and liberties. The President, in an effort to enjoy a night away from the pressures of politics and the restoration of a needful nation, decided to take a night off for some meaningless entertainment. His plate was full in the terms of establishing new and previously uncharted laws and practices. Never before had so many American soldiers fought and died. Never before had such a sacrifice been demanded in the name of liberty. Never before had the policies of our great democracy been so blatantly and forthrightly challenged. Never before had an attack by a military power occurred after so many years of peace. Never before had a nation needed their President more than they needed him now. A lone assassin lurked in the shadows, waiting for a moment when all attention would be on the stage. At just that moment, he stepped forward, placed a pistol against the President’s head, and fired. He was heard yelling, “Sic semper tyrannis,” which ment, “thus ever to tyrants.”

April 15th. The President was taken to a lodging house across the street where he was placed in bed while doctors worked through the night in a desperate attempt to save his life. At 7:20 A.M., 1865, Abraham Lincoln died. His attending physician pulled a sheet over his head and Secretary Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

More? On a related note, on April 15, 1861, Robert E. Lee, son of a Revolutionary War hero, and a 25-year veteran of the United States Army, is offered command of the Union Army—an offer he refused. In 1969, North Korea shot down an American Airplane over the Sea of Japan. In 1986, the United States launched an air raid against Libya in response to a terrorist attack on April 5th. In 2009, Tea Parties were held across the nation, for the first time since the American Revolution, in protest of the trillions of dollars spent by the Obama Administration.

So, when you feel blue over the tax money you have to pay, remember that this day has much more significance than you ever imagined. Some very positive events also occurred on the fifteenth:
1738-The bottle open was invented.
1878- Ivory Soap was developed by Procter of Procter and Gamble.
1923- Insulin was made available for diabetics.
1960- 04 x 15 = 60.

And, most importantly, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s in Des Plains Illinois, selling 15-cent hamburgers and 10-cent fries for a first day’s total of $366.12.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Caitie and the Whale

Seldom do I post poetry, but it's not unheard of. In truth, I've been traveling and I haven't had time to work on any short stories or vet bios. So, for the sake of getting something out there for you to read, I decided to post a poem that I wrote for my kids several years ago. I have been working on a new short story, and I hope to have it edited by next week. It depends on how much time I have when I finally get back home...


Caitie and the Whale

Little Caitie swam with fish
In order to keep her wish
Of swimming around to find a whale
She wanted to ask about the tale
Of the fish that ate a man.

She found a school of fish at play
All at once they began to say,
“To find the whale, leave the brook
In the ocean you must look
For the fish that ate a man.”

In the ocean she did swim
Where the light began to dim.
She found the whale inside a cave
Because she was unafraid
Of the fish that ate a man.

“Excuse me, sir, but I must ask
Of when God did task
You to go and catch the man
When from God he ran
To the fish that ate a man.”

“Of course I do remember
It was late in September
When a man went floating by
So I ate him like a fly.
I’m the fish that ate a man.

“In my tummy the man did stay
Until the man began to pray
So on the sand I spit him out
It is true, so have no doubt
Of the fish that ate a man.”

Little Caitie returned as planned
Back to the ocean’s sand
Never again would she doubt
When her daddy told her about
The fish that ate a man.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Let Us Remember

There are no words that will make this video clip any better. Please watch it and remeber...

Marine

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Dust Bowl

Pardon the expression, but I had to "dust" this story off and share it with you. It comes from my article writing days, which are long gone. It seems applicable now that we are facing hard times again. Maybe it will help us keep our circumstances in perspective.

The Dust Bowl

The years of the depression could be summed up in one word for so many of its victims: desperation.

You could see it coming as far as the horizon would permit. Soon, everyone’s windows and doors served only to hold back the fierce wind howling outside. Dust as fine as silt drifts in from every crack in the wall, filling the floor and cracks with sand deep enough to plant corn. Nothing could stop it. Children would sit in the floor and play with large piles of sand as the dirt blew in from outside. If bad luck were your fortune, it would rain while the sand was blowing and fall in the form of mud. The locals called them “dusters”, but everyone called them the worst thing to happen in farming history.

For the poor sharecroppers in Oklahoma, the dust storms of the Dust Bowl years were nothing short of a death sentence to their way of life. Most farms were foreclosed as banks began to call in notes; notes the farmers could not support. Slowly, one by one, then by the hundreds, Oklahomans abandoned their homes and went west to California, desperately seeking some way of making a living.

The dust meant much more to others. For them it meant completely changing everything they ever knew about life. They packed up their belongings and started driving west. Many people had to leave behind farms that their families had established some 70 years before. Old men cried as they left the home that had born their fathers, their children, and their grandchildren. For many, the trip was too much to bear and they died from broken hearts before they ever crossed the state line of Oklahoma. At night, they would eat fried dough while dreaming of chicken and dumplings. For many, beans and corn bread was a feast to remember. When they arrived in California to find no work available, they gathered into communes, sharing what they didn’t have to share. Instead of finding work, they found hostilities. For California had been overrun by those looking for a solution to their desperate problems. Local vigilantes, hating the Oklahomans for bringing their hard luck to California, burned out many times their camps. Their words, “brother, can you spare a dime?” became the national anthem as tough times got worse for so many. Honest, hard working people were reduced to beggars in order to survive. However, they did survive. They survived to go on and help build a bigger and better America.

For the strong, the tough times brought on by the dust storms amounted to insurmountable grounds for true bragging rights, lending testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit. “Why, where I come from, the dust was so thick that I had to chop my way to the barn with my ax just so I could tend to the cows.” And, “Shoot that’s nothing, it was so dusty at my house that when we jest got used to drinkin’ dust and bathin’ in durt.” Such folks just found a way to survive, despite the overwhelming odds against them. Their families still farm that same land today, with the same grim determination so appreciated by their fore fathers.

In only a few years, America was in the full throws of World War II, fighting to preserve their way of life; fighting to have the right to try their luck again just as soon as they get the chance. These people couldn’t be stopped by hard times. The hard times only made them more determined to survive.

Pay special attention to the photo of the man and the two boys running for cover as a dust storm started to blow in on an Oklahoma farm. What you will see is a desperate attempt to defy the odds and hold out just one day longer. You will see grim determination in the face of odds greater than any man should face. You will see great sorrow and great longing for better days. You will see the embodiment of everything great that is found in humanity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Robinsons

THE ROBINSONS

Paul and Suzie Robinson had been in their Siberian prison for months. They were arrested for smuggling Bibles through the airport at Moscow in 1982 and had been transported from prison camp to prison camp throughout the Soviet Union for 3 years. The US State Department tried repeatedly to negotiate their safe return, but failed. The Robinsons were destined to spend years suffering for their faith.

Throughout their captivity, they had been separated and had not seen each other once, but had heard each other crying out in pain, as they were tortured and humiliated. After each round of torment, the Communists would tell them that if they would simply deny Christ, then they could go free. The Robinsons were not prepared to do so.

One day, Suzie was surprised to see her cell door open and Paul shoved into the room. The door promptly closed and they were left alone for several hours. They cried together and prayed together, asking God to extend His mercy and grace to sustain them. They never asked why they were made to suffer, for they knew the answer. They were Christians; they were agents of change and were prepared to suffer the consequences for their choices. Throughout their journey, God sustained them and they never lost sight of who Christ was and why they loved Him. Their main concern was that their lives and deaths brought honor to God and helped advance the Kingdom of God. They only wanted to make a difference.

Paul and Suzie found strength in their embrace in that cell and were renewed at the sight of each other. Paul had a beard from three years growth, and Suzie had lost more weight than Paul thought possible, but she was still his beautiful wife. Their hope in this reunion was that God had arranged their release. Yet, their hopes diminished when the Commandant entered their cell to discuss their latest offer of compromise. It was simple, if Suzie would agree to willingly bear the child of one of the guards, they would return their passports and send them home. Paul and Suzie rushed to answer and immediately rejected the offer. The Commandant advised them that they would die if they refused, but they remained adamant to their death. Paul and Suzie were made to dig their own graves and Paul was made to bury Suzie before he was killed. Their names were written in the Book of Martyrs and their deaths brought great honor to the Kingdom.

I realize this post is unpleasant, and I have hesitated to post it many times. However, this "could be true, but isn't" story is nothing short of reality for so many Christians throughout the world. I have hesitated to post it in the past because I was concerned how it would be received. But, after watching how our future is shaping itself, I feel it is important to tell stories such as this, lest we grow complacent. Earlier this week, a pastor was shot from the pulpit. He left his wife and two daughters wondering what happened. We are hovering on the edge of a potential prosecution. If America strays much farther down this road, I fear we won't be able to maintain life as we know it.

Now, I'm not an alarmist. I firmly believe in God's sovereignty, and I fully embrace that He is in control. If this is what God allows, then we will embrace His plan with faith that His will is best. If it comes, then let's pray we be found faithful. If God continues to spare us, let's not forget to pray for those who do face these dangers daily.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Illumination--The Finale

Adam, having decided to journey on his own, is now about to venture on his own path, based on the advice of Chicane. One might anticipate how well this will turn out...

Illumination, the Finale.

After a while, the forest started to close in on him, but enough light remained to stay on the path. Without realization, he traveled deep into the forest and deeper into the darkness. Adam continued without hesitation, for he was a man, and he could make his own way. The darkness had completely surrounded him, causing him to stumble as he fought to see the light. Before long, he was groping on hands and knees, searching for the way. He could not turn back, for back and front had long ago merged into the same. He was completely lost, without hope of redemption. He leaned against a tree and decided to wait until light came to him before continuing.

Something seemed vaguely familiar about his surroundings. Had he been in this place before? How could he know, for even his hands were unseen by him? If only he had a way to find the path. He leaned back to think. Once, long ago, he had met a man that offered to help him. What was his name? There had been two men. One had helped him and the other… He couldn’t remember. To great a time had passed and his memory seemed askew by the darkness. Adam forced himself to think, to remember the name of his friend. He was growing sleepy; maybe he should rest for a while before continuing. His eyes closed and he began to relax. Sleep seemed to beckon him, seducing him to let go. He began to drift away, to let go of his surroundings…

Caminero! That was the name of his friend. The thought of the name brought him out of his sleep. Had he been asleep, or only near it? He couldn’t be sure. Caminero. Such an odd name, one he had never heard before. It was on his lips and he spoke aloud before realizing that he had spoken. “Caminero.”

The darkness began to squeeze around him, causing him to loose breath, as if a chain was coiling about him, like a serpent. The darkness had fingers, sticky fingers that reached to subdue him. Terror seized his voice; he was unable to think. “Camin…” Words would not form on his lips. “Cam…” If only he could call for help. Perhaps it was too late, just as he was warned. Mustering all his strength, he cried out in a last effort, “Caminero!”

A light pierce through the darkness, causing the ebony around him to flee. A man stood before him with a lamp. It was Caminero! “My friend, you have come to me!”

“Of course. You only had to call out to me.” He held the lamp closer to Adam, “Can you see to walk?”

“Only by your light.”

“That is what light is for. Follow me; we have a long journey ahead.”

“But Sir,” Adam inquired. “What will I owe you for your help?”

“You owe me nothing that you can pay now. Come with me at once, lest you die in the darkness.”

“Sir, there are many dangers in the forest. A serpent almost killed me just now.”
Caminero held the lamp closer to himself and the light reflected off a long sword attached to his cloak. “Fear not, my friend, for I am skilled in the art of war.” He turned and walked into the darkness. “The way is very close.”

Adam did not hesitate to follow as closely as he could. The light was with Caminero, illuminating his every step; for him the path was clear. Adam could only follow with each step immediately following his guide. Suddenly, the woods cleared and they stood in a large meadow. Adam stopped in disbelief. “I have stood here before.”

“When you left me you returned to the dark path, rather than follow me into the light.”

Adam pointed ahead. “But I followed that path in the light. It’s a trick! I followed your direction after you left.”

“But you did not follow me, only where you thought I went.”

Adam surveyed his surroundings. “Are we alone?”

“Whom do you expect?”

“I am not sure, but I seem to remember another person. My memory is so dark, I can’t see clearly into my past. It’s a tangle of broken promises and deceit.”

“Then you are remembering yourself.”

“What does that mean?”

“Your heart is full of deceit, for you are a liar.”

Adam leaned forward, indignant. “My word is my bond, I have never told a lie.”
“Do you remember when I found you in the woods? You said that you would follow me as long as you have the means.”

Adam was silent for a moment. “Well, one lie does not a liar make.”

“Very well, then how many lies does it take in order to make one a liar? Ten? Twenty five? At what point is one no longer truthful? Are you truthful when you tell your first lie?”

“No, but…” Adam hesitated, looking down at his feet. “Sir, I can see that I am wrong. I did lie to you, but not with the intention of deceiving you.”

“No matter.” Caminero waved him off. “The lie was a matter of convenience for you. You might not have deliberately lied, but the truth was violated just the same.”

“I am truly sorry for lying to you. It won’t happen again.” He paused and sat on a large rock nearby. “Fortunately, that is the only time I wronged you, you are a hard one to please.”

“You also adulterated our relationship. You had fully devoted yourself to my service, yet you abandoned me to pursue your own wishes. In doing so, you chose to serve yourself. I see your selfishness as idolizing only yourself.”

Adam lowered his head. “Sir, I see that I am wrong, I am guilty of offending you. My heart is pierced with shame.”

“Then you have a choice to make. You have to make a commitment to me before we can walk in the light together. You must abandon your old path forever, never to return. Forever more, you can only walk where I lead you, and you can only move when I tell you. You are giving me your life. In exchange, I will give you mine. I will give you a pardon for violating my laws.”

“Sir, I have no knowledge of your laws.”

“Before you started your journey, I wrote the laws on your heart. Otherwise, you would not have felt guilt for those you violated.”

“Sir, I would not have violated your laws, except that I was lied to, I was deceived.”

“No matter. Only you have the ability to make the choice. You choose to either believe or reject a lie. You chose poorly last time; you were very selfish. Now you must choose again. Follow me at the cost of your life, or follow your own path at the cost of death.”

Caminero’s intense stare was penetrating Adam’s heart, his very soul. It was true. Adam was going to be required to sell his soul… “How can you expect me to give you my life? How can I continue?”

“You will pay either me or Chicane. If you pay me, then it will cost you your life. If you pay Chicane, then it will cost you death. You will die either way. Either die to yourself, or die to life. The choice is hard, for you have violated the law; a penalty must be paid. I will pay your penalty, but you must give me your life and become my servant.” Caminero looked deep into his eyes, but Adam had to look away. “When you give me your life, I will give it back to you.”

Adam had no argument. How was he to know that he was trespassing against a law he never saw in print? He had heard it said before, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Adam could see no way out, he had to commit his life to Caminero, or he would die in the darkness. “Very well, Sir. I surrender to you. I am unworthy of you paying for my crimes, but I am grateful for your benevolence. Where you lead, I will follow.”

Caminero produced a bag of water, which he handed to Adam. “I am sure that you thirst by now.”

Adam drank from the flask. Cold, clear water poured endlessly from the pouch. Adam drank, but could not be satisfied; yet, he could not be filled, either. He closed his eyes and drank. He had never been so thirsty in his life. When he opened his eyes, he could see the light; it was shining brightly on the path before him. Caminero motioned for him to follow. “Come, my brother, for we have a long journey ahead.” Adam followed his new master, grateful for the light on his path and the water in his hands.

The End