of Terror Feasts
At The Church's Altar But
Sentinel of Vigilance Turns Page by
Cliff McKenzie, Editor
ZERO PLUS 1280 DAY--New York, NY, Tuesday, March
is portrayed in many ways. Often, the Devil is painted as a
rank, hairy, cloven half-man half-beast with fiery eyes that
sear holes in those they gaze upon. He usually has a leer on
his face, and fangs that ooze spittle as he tosses back his
head and regurgitates the bile of human depravity upon the innocent,
vulnerable and most chaste of people.
often portrayed as a beast with fiery eyes
That was the scene in
Chicago on Monday when Terry Ratzman walked into the Living
Church of God and killed the local pastor, Randy L. Gregory,
his 16-year-old son. Then he turned on the congregation and
began randomly firing his 9mm. When the smoke cleared, seven
were dead and four injured.
Then the 44-year-old
Beast of Terror turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide.
The total dead, including Ratzman, eight.
A few hours earlier,
in Atlanta Georgia, a convicted felon was in court standing
before a judge on a rape trial issue. He wrestled a gun from
one of the bailiffs and shot and killed the judge and a customs
agent, plus two others.
Brian Nichols began a spree of carnapping. If anyone gave him
a problem, he shot them. Looking for a place to hole up, he
chose an apartment building. His random last victim was a single
mother he held captive in her home until she talked him into
Brian Nichols surrendered
to the FBI in Atlanta after Ashley Smith carried a message
of Vigilance that he heard
In a world of Terrorism,
whether it be in the local police station or a church, the ultimate
defense against it is the average citizen. Asley Smith is one
Sadly, the Beast of Terror
in the church shootings had no chance for Vigilance to be applied.
But, in the case of Ashley
Smith, the 26-year-old widow and mother of a 5-year-old daughter,
Vigilance worked to save her life, and perhaps the lives of
Nichols fleeing police
and aware that he had just killed a judge and three others,
was a walking time bomb when he burst into Smith's apartment
and held her hostage.
Smith begged for her
life, telling Nichols that her husband had been brutally stabbed
to death and if she were killed, her daughter would have no
Then she sought permission
to read the multiple murder suspect a passage from Pastor Rick
Warren's best selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life."
Warren is the founder of Saddleback Church in Orange County,
California with a membership soaring upwards of 20,000.
His best-selling book has sold more than 21
million copies in 30 languages. Over the 71/2 hours Smith was
held captive, she talked Nichols into listening to Chapter 33.
Smith read it aloud. The chapter focuses on the role each person
has to serve God. Smith continually told Nichols his mission
in life was to carry "the word of God" to those in
prison, to be an example of "transformation."
Watching the news of the manhunt for him, Nichols
continued to comment that his life was over and that the police
were going to shoot him. Smith countered with the purpose of
Chapter 33, that Nichols was to carry the "message"
and that was why he was where he was.
From Chapter 33 Ashley
Smith read to Nichols that he was to carry the word of
At 9a.m. in the morning, Smith asked Nichols
permission to leave. He granted it. She called the police. Nichols
Vigilance is alive in every Beast of Terror.
In some cases it is smothered by hate and anger with such ferocity
that it doesn't surface in time. In the case of Terry Ratzman,
Vigilance had little chance in the hail of bullets.
But, in another part of humanity it did. Brian
Nichols, a convicted felon who knew the penalty for killing
a judge and police officer allowed his captive to leave and
call the police. Instead of killing himself or engaging in a
mortal shootout with police, he waved a white flag and surrendered
with the blood of four killings on his hands.
In the pages of Pastor Rick Warren's book were
simple revelations about life's purpose that Brian Nichols had
probably heard countless times before in different venues. But
on this particular day, the Arrows of Vigilance struck their
They struck his compassion as a human being
because Ashley Smith became a Sentinel of Vigilance. She braved
the situation to seek out a book and read it to a man whom she
knew had just killed four people and was probably going to kill
It was Ashley Smith's hands that opened the
book, and hers that turned to Chapter 33. While some might say
that a Higher Power directed her to do what she did that would
steal from the Higher Power the right of an individual to use
wisdom and knowledge of human goodness of their own volition.
Ashley Smith had already taken her own Pledge
of Vigilance, in her own way, in her own words, many times before
that event with Brian Nichols. Part of the proof of such a Pledge
is the presence of Pastor Rick Warren's book, and her knowledge
of what was in Chapter 33.
For life to be "Purpose Driven" we
must all seek something far greater than ourselves as the fuel
to lift us over the countless hurdles we impose upon ourselves,
or that circumstances create along our journey. That "purpose"
must not be about ourselves, but reach out to grasp the largest
and most important groups possible so that nothing can fog that
purpose when life's pain and suffering descends.
Vigilance is about serving what is right for
the Children's Children's Children. It is about doing the right
thing for their benefit.
Killing people is not a benefit to future generations.
Seeds of Vigilance sprouted
in Brian Nichols
The killing of Ashley Smith was not a benefit
to future generations.
And, the killing of Brian Nichols was not.
If Brian Nichols carries one message to the
world, it is that he chose not to kill his hostage. He also
chose not to die in a shoot out.
In some small way, the Seeds of Vigilance sprouted
in him long enough to allow the release of his captive and to
think through the decision to surrender.
Whether Brian Nichols ever does "transform"
or not is not a test of Vigilance or being "Purpose Driven."
At the moment he spared a life and his own, as well as the police
officers who might have died trying to take him, he became a
Sentinel of Vigilance.
That's not true about Terry Ratzman. The Beast
of Terror ingested him.
for the seven victims shot by Terry Ratzman stand outside
the Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, Wis., with an eighth
cross for the gunman the Beast of Terror ingested
In our own daily lives we allow the Beast of
Terror to ingest us when we do not Pledge to do today what is
right for the Children's Children's Children.
We can't wait for a situation to dictate that
Pledge, for it can happen at random as it did in a Chicago church
or Atlanta home.
Ashley Smith was ready for the Beast of Terror
to visit her. She had her book at hand. More importantly, she
saw inside Brian Nichols the seeds of a Sentinel of Vigilance
and fed him that nourishment.
In much more microscopic terms, how many parents
gave their children a great big hug this morning and told them
how much they loved them? If there is a Pledge of Vigilance,
it is in the expression of one's love for one's child, and,
for all children.
Take the Pledge of Vigilance today. I assure
you, the Beast of Terror has taken his Pledge of Terror.
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