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Beast of Terror Feasts
At The Church's Altar But
Sentinel of Vigilance Turns Page
Cliff McKenzie, Editor

GROUND ZERO PLUS 1280 DAY--New York, NY, Tuesday, March 15, 2005--Evil 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.

Evil is 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.

Thirty-three-year-old 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 surrendering.

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 such example.

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 others.

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 one.

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 God

At 9a.m. in the morning, Smith asked Nichols permission to leave. He granted it. She called the police. Nichols surrendered.

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 target.

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 her too.

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.

Crosses 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.


Go To March 14 Story--"Scar Tissue Of War..."

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