Monday, December 29, 2008

Purgatory Part I

I'm ready to try another short story. I think you will enjoy this one, even though it might be a little strange. I'm recycling an older post, as I haven't had time to prepare anything new. Rest assured, I'm working on a new short story that will astound you, leaving your jaw slack and agape. But for now, you will have to be content with Purgatory. This is a two part story, so be sure to tune in one day soon for the continuation.
Purgatory “Okay, we go live in 3… 2….” Then the cameraman’s voice was silent and he pointed at the reporter.
“This is newswoman Shara Livingstone broadcasting live from Purgatory State Prison where Governor Cruz announced two days ago a shocking across the board pardon for all the inmates held here at Purgatory. The Governor stated that he loved the people in his state so much that he was compelled to offer blanket amnesty. The only condition to be released was that each prisoner had to ask forgiveness for his crimes, accept the pardon from Governor Cruz, and live a life dedicated to fighting crime. Many prisoners have been set free over the course of the last two days and can be seen walking around the prison. However, we have just learned that many of the prisoners held in Purgatory Prison were refusing to leave their cells. Joining us now is Cell Block Lieutenant Imp, “Lieutenant, can you tell us what happening inside the cell blocks right now?”
Imp scowled a moment and then commented, “It seems that most of the prisoners refuse to leave their cells. They just won’t believe that they have been forgiven by the Governor.”
“What are they telling you? Have they offered a reason why the prisoners refuse to leave?”
“They know in their hearts that they don’t deserve to be forgiven, therefore they will stay in their cells.”
“But the Governor has made it easy to be released. Haven't they been told how easy it is to just leave their cells and never return?”
Imp scowled again. “Oh they were told. Some of the Governor’s men walked through the whole prison and made the announcement.”
“What were the reactions of the prisoners?”
“Most of them refused to believe their good luck. But then the first fellow tried his cell door and walked away, well, it was the dogonedest thing. His cell was locked and then he asked forgiveness for his crimes, and then the cell door just popped open. Heck, we didn’t want to let him go. We knew that fellow was a thief. But after he was given amnesty, there wasn’t anything we could do to keep him there. Some of the fellows tried to get him to denounce his amnesty, but that thief wouldn’t have any part of it.”
“Why would the guards try to keep him in there if the Governor set him free?”
“Well heck, they are guilty and don’t deserve to be set free. Besides, what will we do for jobs if all the prisoners leave the Purgatory Prison?”
Shara Livingstone turned and pointed at the large gothic prison to her right. “Lieutenant, you have agreed to escort us through the cell block. Shall we begin our tour?”
“Might as well.” He turned and pointed at a large iron door. “Okay, you go through this here door and you will be inside of Cell Block One.”
“Shouldn’t the door be secured? It’s wide open.”
“The Governor ordered us to open the prison doors. We argued that all the prisoners would leave, but surprisingly, they ain’t left yet. We just keep on doing our jobs. As long as they refuse to leave, then we can keep on getting paid.”
“But don’t you care that their debts against society have been forgiven?”
“So long as it serves my purpose, I don’t care.”
Shara held her microphone to her lips. “Okay, I’m now standing inside Cell Block One. Behind me and to my right are many rows of cells. You can see that bars separate and define one cell from the other. My first reaction to this prison is the smell. Lieutenant, can you tell me what that horrible smell is?”
“That is their own filth. All the garbage that they bring with them and all the sewage that they generate here. We don’t offer any toilets or shower facilities.”
“Isn’t that inhumane?”
Imp spat on the floor. “What do I care? So long as I have a job.”
“As I continue walking along, I am stunned by how dark it is here in Purgatory Prison. In fact, the further I go inside these walls, the brighter the light from the doorway that is the only opening to the outside. Lieutenant, why is it so dark in here?”
“Oh that serves several purposes.” He held up a finger as if to count. “For one, they can’t see all the filth that they are living in. B, if they are in the dark, they are easier to control. They don’t go getting a lot of ideas on their own. And third, as long as they can see that light, but can’t get to it, they stay miserable.”
“You sound like you want them to suffer.”
“They are guilty. Ever one of them deserves the death penalty. I hate to see them set free. They don’t deserve it.”
“But the Governor chose to forgive them. Shouldn’t you help them find that light?”
“Oh, they were told about that light. It’s up to them to choose to walk out of their prison. Some of them shout for joy and run out of here like a bull coming out of the chute havin’ just been branded.”
“Is that a prisoner in that cell there?”
“Yes ma’am, it is.” He hit the bars with his night stick. The prisoner flinched at the sight of the night stick. “Hey you! Get over here and talk to this reporter.” The prisoner obediently stood to the bars. “Yes sir.”
Shara waved the mic in his face. “We have just been told that the Governor has granted you your freedom. All you have to do is accept the amnesty that was offered you. Why haven't you left?”
“Well, I don’t believe in the Governor.”
“Excuse me?”
“I don’t believe that the Governor exists.”
“Well that is ridiculous. Look around you. Can’t you see what the Governor has built here? This building was built by the Governor. It was designed to be a prison.”
“No. It was here before I was born. I didn’t see anyone build it. As far as I’m concerned, this building has always been here.”
“But I hold in my hand the decree stating your freedom.”
“Okay, I’ll play your game. If you can make the Governor appear before me, then I will believe that he exists.”
“Well, I have no control over the Governor. Who am I to make him come and appear to you?”
He shrugged and smiled smugly at her.
“But didn’t you hear about the amnesty? Don’t you want to be set free from your prison?”
“No. This is the only life I know. From this comfortable room I have everything I need. Besides, if there is no Governor, then I don’t have to leave my cell.”
“So, you are choosing to stay here, even though you have been offered amnesty?”
“Isn’t that what I have been saying all along?”
“Yes, in fact it is. I just don’t understand it.” She turned to continue on her journey, and the man grabbed a hold of the bars and shouted out at her. “Tell me this, misses Smarty Pants, who made the Governor? Huh? Tell me that?” He laughed at her. The Lieutenant rapped his fingers with his baton and the man shrunk back into the darkness.
Shara returned to her microphone and addressed the camera. “This disturbing development will be continued in my next broadcast. I have discovered many things here at Purgatory Prison, and I will continue this story very soon. Please tune in for the continuation shortly.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Fun

I'm not really a fun person, but I saw this on Lynn Rush's site
and thought I'd pass it along. I'll be curious to see your answers to this little interview if you decide to replicate it. Resistance is futile...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. Unless my wife refuses to wrap, which hasn’t happened yet, thank God!

2. Real tree or Artificial? Fake. I love pre-lit trees. They bring joy to my house.

3. When do you put up the tree? Thanksgiving Day weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? New Years weekend.

5. Do you like eggnog? Oh yeah! Pumpkin pie is the best, and egg nog is important. It’s not Christmas without eggnog (or pumpkin pie).

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Could be the Big Wheel. No, it was the Inch Worm—No, it was the Atari—No, wait it was…

7. Hardest person to buy for? My wife. We don’t do gifts for the rest of the family. Just the little ones (nephews/nieces)

8. Do you have a nativity scene? Most of the time

9. Mail or email Christmas cards? Uh, nope. Neither. Sorry, I’m just not a card kind of man.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? One year I received disposable razors from an unknown family who donated to all the “poor” people staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie? It’s a Wonderful Life, and the Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart (Capt. Picard).

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? My wife is usually done by the second week of December.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yep. That and ebay…

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Pumpkin pie! Why am I having to repeat myself? Hello? Is this thing on?

15. Lights on the tree? I used to like colored lights, but now it’s white.

16. Favorite Christmas song? What Child is This? and Christmas Canon (not the Manheim rock version, which is okay, but the other one with the kids singing)

17. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeers? You know it.

18. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star.

19. Open the presents Christmas eve or Christmas day? Family gifts on Christmas Eve, Santa on Christmas Day.

20. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Little Drummer Boy. Someone send that kid home. I mean really, beating a drum near a sleeping baby? It’s not the only gift he brings; he could leave the drum and preserve the silence. Okay, call me the Grinch, but that song really bugs me.

21. Favorite ornament theme or color? White lights, Gold Balls. Or maybe gold and silver combo. Or maybe all the colors. Or maybe…

22. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Turkey, mashed potatoes, PUMPKIN PIE! Hello?

23. What do you want for Christmas this year? Smoked Salmon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Christmas Poem

I wrote this poem several years ago, and it has become a tradition to read it as a family. I want to share it with you; most of you have become like family to me. Notice how cleverly I titled it...

The Christmas Poem

The rocking chair squeaks
By the morning fire
The house was tense
With Christmas desire

Mom with her quilting
And I with my pen
Awaited our children
In the warmth of the den

For Christmas has come
In the house we now dwell
The home was alive
With scents and smells

Our Christmas turkey
Is roasting nearby
The counters are lined
With many new pies

Hot coco bubbles
Away on the stove
The pleasure of children
Its purpose alone

Then comes a stirring
From up above
Our children approach
To share in the love

Their eyes are alive
With cherished delight
Their feet how they danced
On the stairs of their flight

Small giggles come forth
As they rush to the den
Our family's complete
Let Christmas begin

My daughter sat near
My son in my lap
I opened my Bible
God's present unwrapped

We read the beginning
Of our Christmas joy
And of our Savior
The King born a boy

We then thank God
For the gift He gave
That forgave us our sins
And our souls did save

With our thanks complete
Having told our tales
We hand out presents
And turn to ourselves

We gave a doll house
To our little girl
And a new baby doll
Whose hair was in curls

Our son's great desire
Is to learn to fish
We gave him a pole
And granted his wish

For this family now
Joy is complete
To share Christmas memories
Is always so sweet

But the shame of a baby
Come to save all men
Gave us a gift
To live free from sin

For giving has nothing
To do with gifts

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Life

Thanks for stopping by. This week I want to tell a strange story of one person's life. I wrote this many years ago, so you might notice a slight variation in my style. This story has had several different endings, but each time I read it, I would re-write it. I'm kind of sick of it, so I'm going to publish it now so I can move on to something else!


My Life

What’s happening? What is this? Am I being born? It’s way too early; I’ve only been here for a few months. I feel as though I have just begun. I’ve been warm and cozy as I snuggle deep in my mother’s womb. There is so much to see and hear, but I am too young. If it is all right with everyone, I will stay right here, where it’s safe. After all, I know exactly who my parents are by the sound of their voices and what more could I possibly need to know about them?

Of course there is that yappy thing that makes a lot of noise when we are at home. It runs around yapping, like there is no tomorrow. But I know all there is to know about it, so I am content where I am right now. HEY! Hold on, I am staying here! You can’t make me leave! Oh man… Well, here goes nothing…

That wasn’t so bad, I guess. If you like being ripped from your warm home into a room full of people you’ve never seen. One of them even slapped me on the bottom while hiding behind a mask. That made me mad, and I told him about it too! Then I recognized a voice…my mother! Her arms are warm and safe; it feels good to lay here while she dries me with a towel. And let me tell you something, milk is the greatest thing I have ever come across. Shoot, I didn’t even know that I was hungry. I have my whole life to lay here in my mother’s arms. After all, I am very young…

Now what’s happening? My mother seems to be setting a cake on fire while everyone is singing to me! This is so much fun, but what is happening? I just love ripping those boxes apart. Imagine my surprise when I discovered little cartoon people are stuffed into the boxes. Everyone says that I am growing, but I can’t tell. I seem to be the same as always. Several things have happened since we last talked. First, milk makes something weird happen to you, but my parents take care of that after discussing whose turn it is. I also discovered that my mom and dad are the greatest people around, and that grandparents are a lot of fun. (Even if they don’t keep you for very long.) I also like something called strained peas. It feels good to squish them and they taste good.

About that yappy thing, we call him Dancer, mostly because he never stands still. His feet are always moving. I really like him. He let’s me pull his hair and tail because I don’t have any of my own to pull on. He even helps me get cereal off my hands. I think he is my best friend. I don’t have any more boxes to open, but that was fun. I hope to do it again soon.

It’s getting colder outside. My mommy makes me dress in really heavy clothes, but she sings to me while she does. It makes me happy. Yesterday, my Daddy built me a snowman that we call Frosty. He is so much fun, but he never moves around. These last few weeks have been fun. Just the other day, we sat around singing to a dead tree and ate candy out of our socks. I also get to open more boxes. It was even more fun this time. I hope that we do it again soon…

Well, I am getting around better now, sort of. The other day, I fell and hit my head. Daddy was there to pray for me and I feel better now. Dancer licked my face to whip away the tears. My daddy is big and strong. He always kisses Momma on the cheek when they put me to bed. Then they both kiss me goodnight. I love them a lot. Something funny happened to my mother. One day her stomach started getting bigger, I was told that my sister is in there. I couldn’t see her. I don’t see how that is possible, but I try to believe it. They tell me that in a few weeks I should have someone to play with, but Dancer and I don’t need anyone else. You know what? I really hate it when my mother makes me eat those green peas. They just taste horrible; I don’t see how anyone can stand them…

My sister had her first birthday today. We sang songs and ate some cake, but she never did blow out the candle. She opened her presents, but she never looked to see what was in them. It’s kind of dumb to wrap presents for a baby. My birthday is coming and I should get a fire truck. If not then, maybe Santa will bring one. My sister is not much fun. Everyone tells me that I have a playmate, but she can’t catch a ball, or ride a bike. Dancer can do all those things, well, sort of. Anyway, he is my best friend. Sometimes my dad will play catch with me and my mom will listen to me read stories to her. She cried when I went to school, so did I. I liked being at home. Besides, there isn’t anything I need to know. My teacher makes me stand in the corner during naptime, because I pretend to snore. When I got home, my Daddy spanked me, but then he hugged me. I know now that I can’t disobey teachers, and that I will be okay if Daddy spanks me. I did make some new friends, but I still like Dancer better…

Can you believe it? My sister plays T-ball now. Kids are so dumb. She hits the ball, and then runs the wrong way. I’m glad that I never did that. I won the sportsmanship trophy this year. My coach says I will play really well when I get older. The other day, the ball hit me, but Daddy rubbed some dirt on it and I felt better. Dads always know how to fix things. My mom cries a lot. We aren’t sure why, but daddy yells a lot and it makes my sister cry also. Me and Dancer go outside and play Army.

This year for Christmas, I got a new ball glove and a BB gun. Daddy whipped me when I shot our neighbor’s cat. It didn’t die, but I had to apologize anyway. My sister plays with dolls all the time. She is pouring them tea and teaching them how to add numbers. She plays ball with me some. She can’t throw very hard, but I pretend that she can! And when we race, I let her win sometimes. Dancer is getting older. Dad says that he has authritis, but he still catches the ball. My momma doesn’t enjoy her job very much. She wants to quit, but dad says that we can’t make it if she does. Daddy doesn’t play with us much anymore. He is too busy or too tired. I miss him sometimes when he works late. He says that we will go watch the Dallas Cowboys soon, I hope so…

Dad says that money was tight this year, but I got a new stereo for Christmas. Junior high isn’t much fun. All the guys laugh at me when I strike out in baseball, and the girls call me ugly. I can’t wait until I am in high school; maybe then everyone will like me. We moved to a new house just down the street. Dad says that in seven years we can buy our old house back. I hope so, that is where Dancer is buried. Even though boys aren’t supposed to cry, I cried when he died. So did my sister. She is a brat now, and she still plays with dolls. My mom is glad that she doesn’t have to work anymore. I am glad too, cause now she cooks again. I heard one of her friends make fun of her for not working, but my mom is happy now. Dad took us on a camping trip this year and it was a lot of fun. We finally saw the Cowboys play this Thanksgiving. They lost, but I got an autograph. We have a new dog, but my sister plays with him more than I do. When I throw it a ball, she runs off and I have to chase her to get the ball back. Dumb dog…

My parents hate my music. They say that it’s too loud. They don’t like my friends, either. But they are the only ones I have. My mom is worried that I am doing bad things, but I don’t. My dad always taught me better. I would hate to disappoint him. I don’t think that they trust me much. My sister has a new boyfriend now. He’s a nice guy, but he wears braces. My mom is going to college. She seems to enjoy it, and sometimes we study together. My dad is the Vice President now and he has more time to play golf. They always come to my ball games. This year we are going to the playoffs. My dad thinks I will get a scholarship, I hope he is right. My grandfather helped me buy a new car. I have a pickup and I keep a rope in the back window, although I am not a cowboy. My sister wants a Volkswagen. Last week I got into a fight with a football player when he said something about my sister. I don’t care that I was suspended for a few days. My dad yelled at me, but he said that he understood…

College is a lot of fun, more than high school. At lest the girls are prettier. My girlfriend and I go to the movies every Friday. I am still playing ball, and grandparents came to watch today’s game. My mom is in one of my classes this year, and it was weird. Everyone else liked her, but I didn’t say much to her. My sister is into acting. For some reason, she wants to do dog food commercials. She is also going to marry a famous actor, but I keep telling her that she has to meet him first. My parents finally managed to buy our old house back. I was very happy for them, but my room is stored in the attic. My old room is my dad’s office now. This year my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer; her doctors sound positive. My girlfriend’s parents are getting divorced…

I can’t believe that I am now married. It seems like yesterday that I got my first ball and glove. I guess that I am now a man, but I don’t feel like it. I have graduated from a university, but that doesn’t seem possible, either. My new job is okay, but it isn’t as much fun as college. Everyday I come home and I am glad that I have such a beautiful wife. God has blessed me. Occasionally we still go to church with my parents, but not very often. We still have a lot of time left, I am still young. My dad doesn’t understand why my mom went to college if she isn’t going to work, but she just smiles at him. My wife and I hope to have children some day, but we aren’t in a hurry….

Where has the time gone? This morning I took my son to school, and then to practice. From there, I had to take him to some youth deal at church, and then to a friends house. I don’t remember playing ball that much when I was his age. We still don’t go to church, but I think about it all the time. My folks go now, and we visited their church, but I’m not ready to settle down just yet…

I was laid off from the plant yesterday, and I don’t know how we will pay the bills, but we always find a way. I think I’ll try my hand at my own business. Maybe it’s time for me to take a chance on it. It’s hard to find work at my age. Having just placed my mother in the nursing home doesn’t help any either. Once we lost my father, she just went downhill, physically, that is. She’s still after me to go to church. I do intend to do so some day, but I’m not ready to settle down yet….

My granddaughter’s wedding was yesterday. She married a complete boob. Where did she find that freak, at the Little Shop of Horrors? What’s gotten into kids these days? Well, at my assisted living home, my next door neighbor collapsed on her porch and lay there all night until someone found her. She went to the hospital, but she died anyway. She reminds me of my mom in that she’s always nagging at me about going to church. I really don’t have a problem with God or church or anything, but I just don’t want to settle down yet. I’m not through having fun. I’ve been a widower now for two years, and I can’t even remember what my wife looked like unless I see her picture…

My death was today. I would tell you more about that, but I’m no longer in control of what I do. That horrible despair I feel as I sink lower and lower into the abyss is indescribable, and that inky blackness that has surrounded me makes me cold and alone. I feel as though I’m being pulled to anther place, and I can hear the screams as if thousands of voices were being tortured at the same time. This can’t be happening to me! Something has grabbed me and I’m being…..

The Beginning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's A Wonderful Life

I'm stepping a little out of my safety zone and doing something I rarely do: an article about myself. I am comfortable with fiction and short stories, because I call the shots about what I want reality to be. However, I am going to post about something personal, and I think it will be therapeutic for me. And I promise to post another short story in my next entry.

It’s a Wonderful Life

As is tradition in our home, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life on Thanksgiving. I’d like to share a short segment of that movie.

George Bailey: Just a minute - just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was - why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why - here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You - you said - what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be.

To be Mr. Potter or George Bailey? These are the struggles that I wrestle in my heart as I lay in bed at night, and as I walk the street during the day. To most, the choice is clear. George Bailey is a noble, selfless man who continually makes the responsible choice to serve his fellow man, while Mr. Potter is a warped, frustrated old man who seeks his own way and his own purposes.

But allow me a moment to reveal my heart and express the struggle I suffer. For a moment I want to remove the immoral, greedy element from Mr. Potter and examine him as a practical business man. He is a business man of profound abilities, and uses his influence to advance his business interests. One might accurately describe him as calculating.

At my work, I am surrounded by Potters—men who are focused, driven, and calculating. They are the men who drive the business machine forward. The men who make decisions that aren’t influenced by compassion, but rather by necessity.

George Bailey, on the other hand, is a man who has embraced the passion of life and empathizes with the common human condition. He is a man who will continually take the high road, even at his own expense.

At my work, I could count on one hand the George Baileys. I should know, for I am one. I am continually criticized for my “weakness”—that is, my compassion. I’m often confronted by my peers for being too easy, too nice. “Don’t get me wrong,” they say. “You’re one heck of a nice guy, and I think a lot of you, but you are way too soft…” and you can probably finish the sentence for me.

Criticism is a unique gift. You can either dismiss it entirely, or you can embrace it and own it. Or, and this is the harder, better choice, you can examine it for truth. Am I too weak, too soft? Perhaps. Christ never called us to be weaklings, but to be men of valor who stand for truth.

Am I, on the other hand, willing to discard my faith or moral fiber in order to be more like the other cogs in the machine—like the ones who actually drive the machine forward? This struggle may not mean anything to you. You might not even understand what I’m expressing, but I examine my criticisms and extrapolate that which is beneficial. Am I too weak? Perhaps. But is that a weakness? Perhaps not. Perhaps the weakness the world sees is nothing more than compassion and lack of selfish ambition.

Well, I will struggle with these ideals for my life. I pray that I will never be the one who tries to buy off George Bailey because I’ve become a Potter. At one point in the movie, Potter realizes that George has beaten him in the game. In order to remove George from the competition, he deceitfully offers him the deal of a lifetime, and basically throws everything at him that he’s ever wanted. In a weak moment, George is tempted to take the offer. However, after a greasy handshake, George comes to his senses and flees temptation.

May God grant me the strength to hold to my principles, even if the world offers me the world in exchange.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Rosslyn Elliot tagged me, so now I have to share 7 things about myself. I'm not certain how this is supposed to work, but I'll be a good sport and play along...

1. I have an titanium heart valve
2. I once sat in a wheel chair for 3 months while doctors tried to figure out if I could walk again.
3. I once was suspended upside down from a goat cave in Haiti while dangling from a cliff.
4. I've been shot at at least 3 times.
5. I used to be incredibly vain and shallow
6. I once guessed how old an ambassador's wife was by looking at her teeth.
7. I spent the night in a slaughter house one night when I was a teenager.

Avily Jerome
Lynn Rush
Dave Bryant

I'm only going to tag five, so if you want to play, link back to me and then tag some more of your own victims.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Leonard Foster, An American

“Sometimes I just stood there and thought of how lucky I was to be alive.”

Leonard Foster is a native of New Mexico, who claims the area around Hagerman as his old stomping grounds. Born on October 16, 1925, he was only 16 when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. “We had no idea it happened,” he stated. “We had no electricity, and we certainly didn’t have a radio, so we went to the fields on Monday morning the same as we always did. Our neighbor told us what happened.”

Leonard grew up the first born of a family of seven children. His parents were farm workers, who scratched out a living by following the harvest from one location to another. Their work took them across Texas and New Mexico, often keeping them on the road for months at a time. “Most of the time, I didn’t start school until December when the crops were in.” Such was life during the later years of the Depression. School was a luxury that few agricultural families could afford. Leonard didn’t finish high school, but was forced to become a man earlier than most.

“When I heard about Pearl Harbor, I swore to myself that when I turned 17, I was going to enlist in the Navy and go to war.” Leonard had to wait for 10 months before he turned 17, so he continued to help his family work the fields. When the summer of 42 rolled around, he left home and hitchhiked to Los Angeles, where he worked as a truck driver delivering produce on a route that included Reno, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. “I had no driver’s license,” he pointed out. But it didn’t matter. The company needed the help and he needed the work. So, at 16, he was already demonstrating the character of the man he would become.

“I turned 17 on October 16th. I was sworn in to the Navy on the 23rd of that month. I had to have my parents sign for me, as I wasn’t old enough to sign on my own.” In his decision to join the Navy, one can observe how Leonard’s keen ability to analyze a situation was already in motion. “Quality of life was better in the Navy. I would get better food than K rations, and I would sleep on clean sheets. But most of all, I wanted a skill that I could use once the war was over.”

After 10 days of boot camp, he was sent to diesel school, where he was trained as a motor machinist. His job was to make certain the engines in the boats were working properly. That was his only duty, and he took it seriously. “I had the ability to lie down next to those roaring engines on the way to the beach for an invasion and sleep. But if that engine ever missed or skipped, I was wide awake and ready to work.”

Leonard’s first duty assignment was the USS Zeilin APA3 (Attack Personnel Auxiliary). The Zeilin was originally built as a luxury liner and was called the Silver State. When the war started, she was transformed into a transport ship, and after sustaining damage at Guadalcanal, she was repaired and used as an Attack Transport vessel. The landing crafts it carried, the LCVPs, transported ground troops and vehicles to the beaches so they could engage the enemy on shore. They also employed the larger Landing Craft Mechanized boats that transported larger assault vehicles such as tanks from the ship to the shore. Leonard’s job was critical to the success of the naval campaign in the war. He was an on-board mechanic whose only job was to ensure the landing craft carrying troops to the beach was working properly.

On May 13, 1943, he had his first taste of combat duty. The Japanese had a stronghold in the Aleutians on a small island called Attu. Twice his landing craft carried troops to the beach so our Army could remove the Japanese soldiers. Usually, those were one way trips for the troops, but on that day, they carried a critically wounded soldier from the first wave back to the ship. “I can still remember two things very clearly from that day. The first is the sound of the 16 inch shells flying overhead. They sounded like trains going over a trestle. The second was the agony that wounded soldier expressed when he was slammed into the bulkhead when a wave rocked the ship. I’ll never forget either of those sounds as long as I live.”

Leonard also landed troops on Kiska Island, but the Japanese had already abandoned their foothold there before they arrived. Shortly there after, he was transferred to the USS Rotanin, a cargo ship, whose duty was similar to that of the Zeilin, except she transported cargo and troops. The rest of his tour was spent serving on the Rotanin, following the Pacific campaign to rid the world of the Imperial Japanese Army. “We were attacked by kamikazes every day when we were anchored at Okinawa. Kamikazes were Japanese teenagers who were trained to fly the planes, but not trained to land. They flew planes called Zeros and carried a bomb, intending on crashing into our ships. One day, a Zero was dead aimed at the Rotanin, in exactly the place I was standing on the deck. I had no where to run, so I stood and watched that plane bear down on us. When it was a short distance away, a round hit the bomb he was carrying and his plane exploded in mid-air.” Had that one round not hit the bomb, Leonard wouldn’t be here to tell his story. “I didn’t know it, but God was looking out for me.”

Most of the combat duties Leonard employed aboard the Rotanin was creating smoke screens around the ships. “In the harbor at Okinawa, we placed a smoke pot on the boat and drove around delivering smoke.”

Several stories of shore leave and off duty hours were exchanged during the interview. “I was a sailor, and we have a reputation to maintain. I was no saint in those days.” Truth be told, most of their leave time was uneventful. Usually, they would play softball on the beach and drink beer. Occasionally, they would have liberty at a place where there was some action, but most of the time they had to entertain themselves. “I would pal around with my best buddies, Ed Fly and Jack Brisbin,” he laughed. “We never got into trouble together.” Yeah, right!

If you ever get a chance, a movie was made that commemorates the Rotanin called “Mr. Roberts,” which gives a unique insight into the lives of the sailors on the ship during the war.

After the war, Leonard returned home to New Mexico, where he established himself into the sheet metal trade and made a decent living doing so. In the early 50’s, he attended a church service at Hillcrest Baptist in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where he surrendered his life to Jesus. A few years later, he was called to become a pastor. Leonard devoted his energies to being a man of God with the same enthusiasm he gave the war effort.

“Also, I just graduated high school (2006).” After all these years, Hagerman High School invited Leonard back to school, where he received his diploma and addressed the Senior Class of 2006. “It was an honor to share my life with those seniors. They’re good kids and they appreciated what I had to say.”

Leonard, thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for your service to God’s Kingdom. Without men and women like you, we would live under the yolk of slavery.
One final note, Leonard and I had a long discussion about the title of this article. Originally I titled it, Leonard Foster, War Hero. He would have none of it. He insisted that he was not a hero, but an American who responded to his country’s dire need for men to protect our freedoms. I still say he’s a hero!

The first photo is the actual invasion of Attu and the landing craft of the Zeilin. The second is a snapshot of life aboard the Rotanin.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Victim of Problems -- The Finale

While Pastor Kurt reels from the tragic legal issues plaguing him, let's recap. Young Allen has filed criminal charges against the church, the pastor, and the deacon board for promising him something God didn't deliver. They tried to obligate God to a contract that was unBiblical and disastrous. We join Pastor Kurt as he consults with his attorney, Jack Taylor.

And now,
The Victim of Problems -- The Finale
The next morning, Kurt’s phone rang. It was Jack Taylor. Jack had summoned the entire prosecution work group together and they had a powwow. No one in the group was very happy with the case and most of them considered Pastor Kurt to be a friend. So, when Allen agreed to drop the criminal charges and pursue the church through civil court, everyone was relieved. If the church would pay the damages, then all expected that Allen would settle out of court. Kurt sat in his chair and sighed deeply. Was it the right thing to do? Would he accept blackmail? Shouldn’t he fight to protect the sheep in the church from wolves like Allen? But Jack Taylor seemed to insist that he and the deacons had a conviction in their future if the case proceeded. Ultimately, the deacons stuck their necks across the chopping block and the blade dropped. The church likely wouldn’t survive the scandal of the entire deacon board and pastor snookering an innocent young man into believing that God was a genie in a bottle.

The whole issue irritated him like an itch he couldn’t scratch. God was not a coke machine. You can’t just push some little token into a slot and get what you want. He was furious that the deacons reduced God to a magical formula. Where was the righteousness in that? Where was the call to repent because God is a holy God and each person will have to stand in front of His throne on Judgment Day? There was no demand that Allen repent from his lifestyle of sin and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If the modern church continued to use such messages to convert souls, then they will miss the mark even greater. They were limiting the type of people that would need Christ. If only the unhappy people that had problems needed Christ, then the happy people were okay. But that isn’t true. Happy people who live rich full lives will go to Hell if they don’t repent for their sins. Serving God has never been about happiness. When was the Apostle Paul happy? Was it when he was being beaten with rods, or when he was beaten with whips? Was it when he was stoned and left for dead? Was it when he was shut up in prison? Was it when he was lost at sea, or when he was shipwrecked? If serving God was about happiness, then Paul would have quit long before he was martyred for his faith. Somewhere along the way, the modern church decided that if a salvation message was about happiness, then they would convert more souls. Church rosters would grow and memberships would increase, but the building would be full of dead bones. Men can’t just claim that they prayed a magical prayer and then live any way they wanted. The evidence of a converted soul is that the sinner surrenders to the lordship of Christ. If there is no repentance and discipleship to Christ, then the sinner never converted. The Church was now packed full of men and women who are using God as a life enhancement. That is the reason the church has become so ineffective today. That is why prayer was taken out of school. That is why the tolerance movement has such a strangle hold on the Church. Suddenly, the phone rand and Kurt’s train of thought brought him back into focus.

“Hello?” He exhaled slowly. “Yes, this is Kurt…We have an agreement.”


The story doesn’t end here, although it very well could have been the ending. First Church suffered from the scandal, but slowly recovered. Most of the deacon resigned from the board and Pastor Kurt ordained a new generation of deacons to serve the body. After a year passed, the incident was mostly forgotten. Pastor Kurt had put the issue behind him and seldom thought of Allen until he saw him one weekend at the county jail. Allen had been picked up as a vagrant walking through town. He had spent the night in Mrs. Beagle’s back yard huddled behind her rose garden. She woke up to get an early start on weeding and saw a man with a coat pulled over his head lying against a tree. She called Dan Tucker at home, who arrested him for trespassing. The first person Sheriff Tucker called was Kurt.

Allen now sat across from Pastor Kurt in the visitation room. He was worn out and appeared to be ten years older. He was disheveled, unkempt, and miserable. He managed to smile when Kurt sat down across from him.

“Long time no see.”

“Hello, Allen. Are they treating you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He wouldn’t look at Kurt.

“Surprised to see me?”

Allen frowned. “Not really.”

“Oh?” The answer surprised him.

“No, I figured that you would come and gloat at me.”

Kurt was shaken. “Gloat? No, Allen, I came to see about you, not to witness your misfortune.”

Allen only shook his head. “Whatever. I doubt that you could ever care about me. I was the one that took you to the bank.”

“Allen, that was only money. We can always replace it. It is your soul that I am concerned for.”

He peered at him through long stringy hair. “You know, you are the only one that I couldn’t take down.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you know who I am by now?”

Kurt shook his head. “No, what do you mean?”

He sighed. “A few years ago, I went to a church youth group rally as a visitor and the preacher there lied to me. He told that if I gave my life to Christ that I would be happy. I didn’t know that I wasn’t happy. But, he pressured me to walk the isle with all the other kids that went down to the front of the church that night. Then he made me repeat a prayer. After that, I was only a number to him. One night, after I came in late, my dad and I had a fight and he kicked me out. I called the pastor of that church, but he told me to call him in the morning and not to bother him so late. That night, some kids were breaking into cars and stealing stereos, but I didn’t know it. The police saw me walking around and I matched the description. I ended up being charged with the crime. That church never came to visit me, not even after I asked for help. I was convicted of the crime and sent to Juvenile Camp for six months. After that, I went back to that church and the preacher told me that he only had room for sincere Christians in his church. He even made me leave before the service was over. I was so embarrassed and so mad that I swore to get even. From that time on, I went from church to church and whenever they would preach that happiness garbage, I would do exactly as I did at your church. Those idiots would be so eager to scratch a notch in their membership books that they were easy marks. I made a lot of money doing that.”

“But Allen, I could see you at the back of the church. The Holy Spirit was really working on you. I could see you struggling with your sins.”

Allen blinked hard and looked away. “You are the only one that didn’t preach happiness. You were all stirred up and I had nothing to work with. You never once talked about how God will improve your life. The longer I sat there, the worse it got. Before long, you almost had me convinced to repent. I was going to talk to you after the service that last night when your deacons surrounded me. It was just like that first time at home. They kept pushing me and they would have agreed to anything to get me to pray that prayer.” He grinned. “I got them good. They were eating out of my hands.”

Kurt smiled. “Yes you did. You know that they all quit as deacons. Most of them joined other churches in town. You taught us quite a lesson.”

Allen shrugged. “You don’t seem that upset.”

“It was only money.”

“But don’t you hate me?”

“Why should I hate you?”

“Well, you don’t have to think about it. I ripped you off.”

“Allen, the Bible says that if I won’t forgive you, then God won’t forgive me. I was no better than you when I came to Christ. The thing that God used to rein me in was my thought life. Some preacher in Abilene, Texas preached about how God was going to judge my thought life. Oh, that scared me senseless. If God was going to judge my thought life, then how would He react to my words and actions?”

“Pastor, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. Now the Bible tells me to extend grace to the humble. Shall we talk about where you stand with God right now? You know, God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, for He has appointed a day in which He will judge the whole world according to His righteous standard, which is Jesus Christ and the blood that was shed for our sins….”

The end.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Victim of Problems Part III

In our previous installment, Pastor Kurt was unaware of the deacon's newest convert to the faith, young Allen Gibson. Despite their perceived victory, they were strangely silent following the contract they signed for him. Journey with me now to the pastor's office as he is silently drinking coffee and preparing his next sermon....

The Victim of Problems Part III

A few months later, Pastor Kurt was sitting at his desk when the Sheriff poked his head in the door. “Good morning, Kurt. Got a minute?”

“Dan Tucker? Of course, come in. How are you?”

Dan removed his hat. “I’m fine. It’s going to be a hot day.”

“Yesterday it was over a hundred again. Thirteen days in a row…”

“Yep, it’s hot. Mrs. Beagle wants me to set up her swimming pool, but I don’t know anything about pools.”

Kurt smiled. “Well, if you need a hand, just call. I’ll have some of the men go by and take care of Mrs. Beagle.”

Dan waved him off. “Oh, don’t worry about it. Otis Fuller said that he would take care of it this afternoon.”

“It sounds like a good project for Otis. Care for a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks. I can’t stay long. I just stopped by to give you this.”

For the first time, Kurt saw that Dan held a piece of paper in his hand. “What is it?”

Dan hesitated. “It’s a warrant. That’s why I brought it. Usually, I would have a deputy bring it, but I felt like I needed to be the one to do it.”

“A warrant? Am I being arrested?”

“Sort of.”

“For what?”

“Fraud and Misrepresentation.”

“You have to be kidding. When have I committed fraud?”

“Well, you haven’t, not exactly. Do you remember the revival you had a few weeks back?”

“Of course.”

“Well, some young feller, Allen Gibson, apparently accepted Jesus and has now sworn out a complaint against you and the deacons for lying to him.”

“For lying? I remember Allen, but I don’t remember him walking the isle.”

“That’s because he didn’t.”

“I’m confused, Dan. What’s going on?”

“Alright, here goes. It seems that this Allen Gibson was told by your deacons that if he would ask Jesus into his heart, then God would solve all of his problems. Not only that, they made a list of the things that God was going to give them, which includes a perfect marriage, a new car, a new home, a job, and a promotion at his new job. When Allen got home and started fighting with his wife, he decided that the deacons lied to him and misrepresented God.”

“What? That’s ridiculous! Why, I can’t even begin to describe…”

“There’s more.” Dan interrupted. “It seems that his car got a flat and then broke down, and then he never found a job, so he never got his promotion, all contrary to the contract that your deacons signed.”

“Dan, what is this contract you keep talking about?”

Dan sighed and reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo copy of the contract. “Here, see for yourself.”

Kurt read the contents and remained silent. Then he read through it again. “Dan, this is strange. Are you sure this is from my deacons?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Those are real signatures and that is a legal contract.”

“But it’s ridiculous.”

“Granted. However, your deacons, in all their zeal, foolishly committed you and your church to the biggest religious scandal since Jim Baker went to prison. I fully expect the news crews to pull up sometime tomorrow. You’re going to be famous, Kurt.”

“So, am I under arrest, or what?”

Dan shrugged. “Why don’t you follow me down to the office, that way you can have your car handy for when we release you.”
“Release me? I’m not under arrest?”

“Oh, you are. But I talked to the judge and he agreed to turn you loose on your own recognizance. We just need to go down and book you. Then you can go home.”

“I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Believe it. By the way, Kurt, why don’t you remain silent and don’t talk? I would hate for you to accidentally say something that you will regret.”

“Thanks, Dan, but I don’t know anything about it, how could I possibly say anything?”


A few hours later, Dan was sitting in Jack Taylor’s office. Jack was the only defense lawyer in town that handled criminal cases and he seldom had any practice with potentially high profile cases. “Kurt, this is a mess. Why on Earth would your deacons do something so strange?”

“I donno. I haven’t even talked to them.”

“Well, you’ll get your chance. Dan just served the rest of the warrants and I’m certain that they will all be calling me by the end of the day.” He frowned. “It seems to me that you have a legitimate problem on your hands. This contract is legally binding. It was signed with witnesses and very clearly spells out that God is obligated to act out the terms of the agreement. It seems, Kurt, that you are the victim of a con artist.”

“Well, arrest him, or something.”

“For what? He’s done nothing illegal. There is no law against entering into a contract that is impossible to fulfill. What will probably happen is that Allen will drop the charges if you will pay his damages.”

“What damages? Nothing has happened to him.”

“Exactly. Nothing happened after he was promised that everything would happen.”

“But the whole idea is frivolous.”

The lawyer shook his head. “Doesn’t really matter. The deacons promised him something in exchange for another.”

“Is this about God?” Kurt’s eyes blazed as he considered the question. “Not really. It’s about money!”

“Well, if he would have sued you for breech of contract, which would probably work, it could take years. However, if he drops the criminal charges, then you can settle out of court. He wins, you have no criminal conviction, and the church is only out a little cash.”

“Oh, brother. Why isn’t that extortion?”

“Because if you are convicted, and you will be, you will have to face criminal charges. If he agrees to drop the charges and not pursue you into civil court, then how you settle the matter out of court is your personal business.”

Kurt had nothing to say. He sat and brooded in his chair.

“By the way, what is your church worth?”

“Hmm, it’s interesting that you should ask. We have inherited a large sum from the Johnson Trust. There is a little over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. We were going to use it for our building project.”

To be continued. Tune in tomorrow for a dramatic conclusion...