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    Articles, devotionals, short stories, and other written expressions by ChristianWriters.com members

    Maurice M Hebert

    The radio reception was fading in and out. I was hearing a discussion that was so passionate and interesting I had to pull over to the shoulder in a clear reception area. One of the guests was sharing about the reasons for a rise in depression, drug abuse and suicide in America. She mentioned that we no longer teach our children the words of the founders, or the Declaration of Independence, we have replaced reason and rational inquiry with emotional and political correctness. We are no longer teaching that we are blessed with self-evident truths, that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. We are no longer teaching that as created beings we are made in our creators’ image and have value and meaning and purpose. I felt a sense of grief for our nation and a verse of scripture came to mind.
    “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His inheritance!” Psalm 33:12
    My heart raced as I remembered how I had come to faith in Christ because of a study I had begun of the words and actions revealing the hearts and minds of our founders. I knew that a rational and reasonable examination of the history of our founding as “one nation under God” is effective in bringing about a conviction of truth.
    I had concluded that Christianity had survived thousands of years because of the testimony and martyrdom of its faithful followers. I had reasoned that the apostles being the frail men they were had been friended and changed by Jesus Christ. They lived with Him, traveled and spoke with Him, they were taught by Him and ministered with Him. They had given their lives over to Jesus. They found Him so remarkable, so life-changing, so life-giving and uplifting to the point that they were willing to die for speaking the truth of who He is.
    Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and know that you are The Messiah, The Son of THE LIVING GOD.” John 6:68-69
    We, believers, are the spiritual descendants of the apostles, saints and martyrs, pilgrims and statesmen who have declared that “we have no king but King Jesus!”  The fruits of liberty and freedom we enjoy in this country are unequaled anywhere in the world.
    "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?" Deuteronomy 4:7
    Christian principles formed the foundation of our Declaration of Independence our Constitution our Government and Judicial system, we have been blessed with so much that we now take for granted.
    As these principles are attacked daily by the enemies of life and liberty we must be vigilant in teaching and restoring the understanding and the true source of these principles.
    There is no greater battle than the one being waged right now for the hearts and minds of our youth. The public school system has removed the teaching of these valuable foundational principles and all mention of their true source. This blessed nation is at stake.
    In the early days of our founding, the Puritans formed schools with the purpose of teaching Scripture to every child. The study of the Bible was essential for developing a worldview that understood principles of self-government and just laws, which upheld the value of life, liberty, and property.
    These were the schools that helped develop leaders such as Patrick Henry who spoke the words “Give me liberty or give me death”
    A famous beneficiary of a principled Christian education, author of the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language and Founding Father of American scholarship, Noah Webster, wrote:
    “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. . . . No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
    Founder, Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, in his publication titled A Defense of the Use of the Bible as a Schoolbook, wrote:
    “Before I state my arguments in favor of teaching children to read by means of the Bible, I shall assume the … following propositions: First, that Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy; Second, that a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired by reading the Bible than in any other way; Finally, that the Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world. . . .”1
    Often considered the father of the American Revolution, Samuel Adams wrote in 1790:
    “Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system . . . .” Letter to John Adams, October 4, 1790
    The Principle Approach Model for Learning and Teaching American Christian History
    From the Foundation of American Christian Education - F.A.C.E.
    The generations of our founding had applied their learning to the task of building a nation founded on Christian principles. Their capacity to apply a Christian worldview and moral reason to all areas of life helped establish a nation of Law and Liberty that would allow and encourage all people to pursue God and His Word
    My study began with the Foundation for American Christian History. Since that eye-opening study, I have become aware of other organizations that share the same desire of teaching and restoring a true understanding of the basic Christian principles of our founding while developing a worldview that is able to discern the times in which we live. They are listed below.
    The Pilgrim Institute
    The Summit Ministries / Understanding the Times Curriculum
    The Public Square / American Policy Roundtable / Mission To America
    Nehemiah Institute
    The Exodus Mandate
    1 Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806) pp. 93-94.


    I won't mention the European country ("X") or provide names, as you'll see why.  The embarrassment
    for me started the day after a speaking engagement that I had helped to arrange at X's version of
    West Point.   Angela, my U.S. military office's community relations advisor and a local national, hit me
    with precision-guided salvos the next morning, as soon as she saw me walk nonchalantly past her office door. 
    But Captain, the Prince thought that you were mad at him!
    Angela, what do you mean?   I didn't even interact with the cadet--him!   After all, I was just
    an escort for the American officer.   So, when Captain Jones gave his speech to the
    eager-to-learn-English cadets, Jones and I were guided to a reception room for he
    and the Prince to meet, have some coffee and pastry and converse.   Being an escort, it wasn't
    about me, so I just stood in a corner, glad that I was witnessing the rapport between
    a future King and--oh no!
    Oh, yes.  The Academy commander just called to relay that the prince thought that you were aloof
    with him or something, and he couldn't figure out why you didn't want to talk with him.
    Well, how in the world am I going to live this down?   You know that, every month, we send
    a junior military officer to talk about his or her experience.   Now it will be "Captain Stuck-up" and his
    guest speaker--unless I get an audience with his future highness to deliver my own speech,
    a mea culpa.   You will just have to be the escort yourself, from now on!
    I often look back on this international snafu with a chuckle, sometimes with regret.   It has served
    as a reminder that minding one's station should be coupled with an open eye to serve
    and gain rapport.    I do recall how the now-King looked at me with an inquiring glance from the corner
    of an eye.  
    If I'd only had my antennas up.    I can share this with my grandchildren before they reach the, "Oh come on!" stage.  
    Innocence doesn't read social demands into things.
    Paul said, "We all err in many ways."   We need to be ready to excuse others--perhaps even ourselves.
    I've done the latter to myself many a time.    This ability keeps us from being harsh, while still leaving
    it open to politely expect better from ourselves and others.   Room to rebound. 
    I wonder what would happen if I wrote an open letter to the King.   Would an anonymous letter make
    it past his correspondence gatekeepers?   I'd like to just say, "Hey remember when ... ?   I just hope
    you and the Queen are doing well."   No, I'll leave it alone.
    Who knows.  Maybe the King remembers that position can intimidate or unintentionally inhibit.   One thing I do know.
    From what what I've seen on TV and other media, he is kind to those around him. 


    Cross Over

    By Scooter, in The Reading Room,


    My paternal grandfather was a primitive artist, some folks said. I was offended by the remark, not realizing the term referred not the quality of his work, but to his use of materials at hand - petrified wood, gnarled wood, deer antlers, earthly things that displayed character and pleased him.
    I was fourteen when he went about removing the old hitching rail that had stood at the gate of his farm house since he was a boy. He was 72 and the time to replace it with a stone fence and deer antler gate had arrived. I knew nothing of this plan until he asked me to help him move four large petrified stumps that had lain beneath a thorny locust tree near his barn.
    Missouri winters can be frigid. The winter of 1952 was no exception. Working in the basement, I helped prepare his small batches of cement that, when finished, become two decorative panels. His experienced hand and a metal trowel, brought a sheen to the surface on one panel in which a number of small thunder eggs and agates formed a pattern that pleased him. On the other panel he applied a thin layer of pure cement and when it reached a stage that suited him, he carefully etched the lines of a poem he credited to Shakespeare.
    Poetry was not one of my stronger suits, so I turned a blind eye to the words this dude had left us a half-millennium before my arrival.
    Being not in line to inherit Tanglewood Farm, I enlisted in the air force, married a lady I met on the Oregon coast, raised a family and let thirty years slip away without refining my literary knowledge.
    During the summer 1982 a letter from a distant relative alerted me that Tanglewood Farm had been sold.  Another decade passed before I ignored the “Keep Out” sign and trudged the quarter-mile lane. Cattle were grazing where Grandpa’s house had once stood, but his stone fence remained at what was once the entryway. After copied the poem on a slip of paper I hiked back to my car. But before heading back to the west coast, I read the words one more time.
    And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
    I would not change it.
    - Shakespeare
    And there it was the meaning. How could I not have understood Shakespeare’s words? Grandma was a school teacher before she married in 1910. While Grandpa was the artist, she was the wordsmith. But he’d crossed over with an eternal gift, and etched her favorite verse in stone.

    Endless Perspective

    The holographic universe concept describes all matter as energy, which it truly is when you consider the vast space between the energy particle bits of single atoms.   Thought is also a form of energy taking form in the images of our imagination, shaped by the heart, and brought into reality imperfectly by our hands. With God the difference is  perfect thought and perfect energy resulting in his speaking creation into existence.  
    What does he give us as his children? I believe everything we create out of love through the heart adds to the fullness and beauty of heaven forever.    To that extent, I hope you enjoy this poem  and I look forward to your thoughts and comments. 
    Time is a measurement, 
     Giving the illusion of control, 
     A metering of reality, 
     To make sense in our minds, 
     The measure of entropy, 
     In an imperfect world, 
     Where the only continuum,
     Is the constant of change. 
     The only real change, 
     Comes from the craft of creation,
     Where things of the mind, 
     Become things of the world, 
     From the energy of thought, 
     And the work of our hands, 
     Through the doorway of the heart, 
     To be born beneath the stars. 
     All thought is energy, 
     All matter is energy, 
     The difference between the two, 
     Is the veil of doubt in our minds, 
    Torn asunder by the heart,
    Letting the light of truth through,
    Sparking Creation’s birth,
    In the magic of life.
    This light of experience,
    Shines through all things,
    A homeless mother’s eyes,
    On this her little girl’s birthday,
    Painting her joy onto my words,
    Through the light of her heart,
     Under the clouds that we share, 
     Outside of your door. 
     Experiences are things, 
     Gifts of timeless love, 
     Moments from the heart, 
     Alive through the eternity of love, 
     Moments from the heart, 
     Adding to the ocean of life, 
     Just like tear drops of time, 
     Into eternity. 

    William D'Andrea

    Smashed Potatoes
    By William D'Andrea
    American Soldiers visit an Italian village, during World War II.
    This story is based on an actual incident.  My father was told about it by his cousin.

    Chaplain Henry Prescott, had landed with the 5th Company at Salerno, and he'd been with them at Anzio. Now the fighting was heavy, against the German positions at Monte Cassino; but 5th Company was camped thirty miles outside Naples, far from the fighting, or anything else, waiting for orders, and waiting and waiting, and waiting.

    Chaplain Prescott wanted to be where men were suffering and dying, where God was most needed. Instead he was here, speaking firmly to certain men, about being drunk, swearing, consorting with prostitutes, and violations of the Code.

    This morning the Southern Baptist Minister, sat at his desk, inside the Chaplain's Tent.

    He prayed, with a heavy, South Carolina accent. "Oh Lord, I'm bored; right out of my gourd."

    A soldier stood silhouetted in the tent's doorway.

    The Chaplain told the man, "Enter."

    The man stepped inside, out of the sunlight, and saluted. The Chaplain recognized his stubble bearded face. He returned the salute.

    "What can I do for you, Corporal Natalino?"

    Dark haired Nicholas Natalino said, "I'd like a pass sir."

    "So would I soldier."

    "You see sir. " The soldier spoke with a New York accent; pronouncing his Ts like the letter D, and his Ks like the letter G. "We're not far from the Village of Vianito, where my Grandparents were born sir. I've received a letter from my Aunt Marie. She says that some of my relatives are still living there. I'd like to get a pass, so I can go up and visit them. Sergeant Luzak says that I need an officer to accompany me."

    Chaplain Prescott's eyes lit up.

    "Thank you Lord." He grinned, "Why, I think that's a fine idea, Corporal Natalino! Wonderful idea! We'll be in a jeep and out of this camp in five minutes!"

    Fifteen minutes later, Chaplain Prescott sat beside Corporal Natalino, who drove through the Italian countryside, in a bouncing jeep, under the bright blue sky, on a warm spring morning. They drove past piles of rubble, where plants were beginning to sprout, and birds sang guiltless, above the destruction.

    The Chaplain asked, "You said you got a letter from your Aunt Marie?"

    "Yes sir. She'd my grandfather's sister. She lives in Mid-town Manhattan."

    "Mid-town Manhattan? Is she one of those ladies of fashion, who you see in the newspapers and magazines, wearing furs and jewelry?"

    Natalino laughed. "No sir. I think she has an old fur coat, and her engagement ring is the only real jewelry she has. She might wear some plastic earrings and bracelets; but nobody can ever call my Aunt Marie, a lady of fashion."

    "I'm sorry. I'm just a country boy, showing my naivete."

    "My Aunt Marie lives in a two room apartment, in an old tenement building, on West 35th Street. She's lived there for more than 50 years, but once you step inside, it's as if she'd never left the old country.

    "She lives directly across the street from the Hotel New Yorker."

    "Isn't that's one of the top hotels in the world?"

    "That's right, and she's just one block from Macy's."

    "'World's largest store?'"

    "Exactly. The Metropolitan Opera House is on Broadway between 40th and 41st Street, just five blocks north and two blocks east of my Aunt's place; and the Broadway theaters are just ten blocks north. A short one stop ride on the 8th Avenue Subway; but I can't imagine her spending time in any of those places, except Macy's"

    "What a pity." The Chaplain said, "We never appreciate what we have right in front of us."

    "Well, her life revolves around 9th Avenue. That's where everything costs less, and everybody speaks Italian."

    "Doesn't she speak English?"

    "Padre. My aunt's lived in Mid-town Manhattan for more than 50 years. Of course she's gonna speak English. She just doesn't speak it all that well.

    "She'll say things like 'How'd you like some smeshed potatoes?'"

    The Chaplain grinned. "'Smashed' potatoes?"

    "That's right. Bam! Bam! Bam! 'Okay! De potatoe, he's a smeshed!'"

    "Sounds like she trained the Mess Sergeant."

    The Corporal and Chaplain drove on. Then the rubble was behind them. They drove past undamaged buildings, and undisturbed olive groves, along a narrow road, paved with large blocks.

    "Corporal." The Chaplain said, "I think we're traveling along an ancient Roman Road."

    "Yes sir. I think this might be part of the Appian Way itself. Julius Caesar himself, might have come this way, in his chariot."

    "And the Apostle Paul might have come along this way on foot.

    "Do you realize soldier, we now live in a time, when men name their sons Paul, and call their dogs Caesar?"

    They came to a junction, with a sign pointing right, saying "Vianito". The Corporal turned off the historic highway, and went along a gravel road, up into the hills.

    Then they were moving through the narrow, twisting, cobblestone streets of Vianito, passing whitewashed stucco buildings, with orange tile roofs. They saw a few people looking through doorways and windows, watching the American Soldiers with concern, but not fear.

    The Chaplain asked, "How well do you speak Italian Corporal?"

    "Well I can converse, in uneducated, immigrant Italian. It's not the 'King's Italian', and it's probably full of all kinds of grammatical errors. It's a regional dialect, but we're in the region where it's spoken."

    "Then that should be more than enough, for a friendly visit."

    Then they drove into a small Piazza, with a dry fountain, and a small Parish Church. A few tables were set under umbrellas, on the opposite side of the fountain from the Church. About a half dozen elderly men were seated at the tables, watching the soldiers.

    Corporal Natalino halted the jeep, in front of the tables.

    The Corporal called out, "Buon giorno!"

    The men nodded respectfully.

    The soldier spoke in Italian. "My name is Nicholas Natalino!"

    The men looked startled.

    "I am looking for my uncle. Is there anyone in this village, named Alfredo Natalino?"

    The old men all turned, to look at one among themselves.

    Corporal Natalino told the man, "You look like you could be any of my father's brothers."

    The man stood up slowly. His features were deeply wrinkled.

    Natalino told the Chaplain. "The man's 53. He looks like he's in his seventies."

    The man stepped up to the jeep, and reached out his hand.

    "I am Alfredo Natalino. Who is your father?"


    "And is your mother Angela Frascani?"

    "Yes. That was her maiden name."

    The old man grinned, showing a few empty spaces in his teeth.

    "Then welcome my American nephew."

    They shook hands.

    "Welcome to your Italian family."

    The Corporal then waved his hand toward the officer, in the seat beside him.

    "This is Captain Prescott. Chaplain of 5th Company."

    "A Priest? A Priest in the village? After all these years!"

    The men at the tables all stood up, and blessed themselves.

    Within ten minutes, it seemed as if everyone in the village, had come into the Piazza. Prescott saw that they were mostly women, children, and old men.

    Corporal Natalino stopped speaking Italian, and told his officer,

    "There hasn't been a Priest in this village, since the War began, and everyone would like to make Confession."

    "But I'm not a Catholic Priest. I'm a Baptist Minister."

    "I don't know if anybody here would know what that means, but you are a man of God."

    "You are correct Corporal; and I'm going to need your help as a translator."

    Natalino repeated his words to the crowd.

    There was a brief discussion.

    Then Natalino told the Chaplain, "Before I translate anybody's confession, they want me to swear to never divulge anything I hear."

    "Are you a man of honor Corporal Natalino?"

    "I take this as seriously as they do sir."

    "Then I will hear their confessions."

    Then they were inside the ancient Church. Chaplain Prescott sat inside the confessional, with Corporal Natalino at his side.

    Someone entered on the other side, and spoke through the screen.

    "Bless me Father. I have sinned. It has been four years since my last confession."

    The Corporal translated the words.

    The Chaplain said, "You'll have to say the Catholic words for me Corporal."

    Natalino repeated the standard Priestly response.

    The person said, "I have lied. I have cheated..."

    The first confession was over.

    There were dozens of confessions that day, all very much the same, all patiently listened to by Reverend Prescott, and just as patiently translated by Corporal Natalino.

    One woman said, "I have fallen at the fountain."

    The Chaplain said, "That is no sin."

    One man said, "I have been fighting in this war. I have done some horrible things, and I am haunted by them."

    Many American soldiers had said the same thing to Prescott.

    He said, "If you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, your sins are forgiven, and all the guilt you feel, is taken away. Before God you are sinless."

    "Thank you Father."

    More people came in. They confessed to lying, to cheating, stealing, gossiping with malice, and what anyone would expect to hear, anywhere in the world.

    Four other people also said, "I have fallen at the fountain."

    He told each, "That is no sin."

    The Chaplain told Natalino, "But it's a problem I'll have to speak about to whoever runs things in this village."

    The Confessions were completed in a little more than four hours. The Chaplain and the Corporal emerged from the Church, in the early afternoon. The aroma of spices and cooking pasta filled the air.

    Natalino said, "The welcome has just begun."

    Alfredo Natalino came up to both soldiers.

    He said, "Come please. We're having a big feast for you Father, over at the ristaurante."

    They walked down the Church steps, and around the empty fountain.

    Prescott said, "There doesn't seem to be any problem with the paving."

    The Corporal spoke to his uncle in Italian.

    "Is there something wrong with the pavement here uncle Alfredo?"


    "Yes. It seems like a number of people have kept falling at the fountain."

    The old man stopped smiling.

    "What have you done? You said you wouldn't repeat any of the sins you heard confessed. You've broken your word to God."

    "But an accidental fall isn't a sin uncle."

    "Oh! I see." His uncle laughed. "You don't understand what you heard.

    "You see. We never say the word," He lowered his voice. "'adultery'. If that happens, we say that someone has 'Fallen at the fountain.'"


    "It's all right. You didn't know, so you didn't break your word."

    "But the Chaplain didn't know that either, and he told all of them that it wasn't a sin."

    "Just don't tell him that, and whole day will go well."

    Then there was a major banquet at the Ristaurante, beginning with an infinite antepasto.

    When the antepasto was done, Captain Prescott said, "Thank you all. This was a wonderful meal! It's the best I've had since we left the States."

    Then the second course was brought out. Then the third course, followed by the fourth and fifth course; all served with a carafe of Chianti.

    Then the Chaplain said, "Thank you all for everything. I'll never forget this day. I'd love to stay longer, but we have to get back to camp by nightfall."

    Then he and Natalino got into the jeep. Uncle Alfredo and the Mayor came over to them, and presented the Chaplain with another bottle of Chianti.

    "Mayor." The officer said, "I'll speak to somebody when we get back to camp."

    Natalino translated his words again.

    "I'll see if they can send some engineers up here, to fix the pavement around the fountain; so your people won't keep falling down around it."

    The Mayor chuckled.

    "I don't see why you think it's funny Mayor. Your own wife keeps falling here all the time."

    Natalino hesitated.

    Chaplain Prescott asked, "Is there a problem Corporal?"

    "Not as long as I don't translate that last sentence Padre."

    The two American soldiers drove out of the village, and back along the ancient Roman Road.

    The Chaplain said, "That food was wonderful. It's a pity that there isn't a single place in all South Carolina, where you can get lasagne."

    "Wait 'til after the War. Then if you ever come to New York, you can look me up. There are hundreds of places where you can get lasagne that's just as good, or even better."

    "I just might do that, Corporal Natalino. I'd like to meet your Aunt Marie too. I'd just love to have a heaping plateful of her smashed potatoes."

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