Creekbank Blog

The writing blog of Curt Iles and Creekbank Stories. Our mission: To connect hearts to God by using stories of encouragement and inspiration.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ready to move out

This summer DeDe, Terry, and I took part in a youth camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This area of majestic mountains, covered with vast stands of tall Ponderosa Pines, is one of my favorite places in America.
To get to camp, we wove deeper and deeper into the Hills following a long snaking dirt road called Pasa Sapa Road (This is the Sioux name for the Black Hills.) Upon arriving at Kamp Kinship, we were greeted by the friendly staff and soon made ourselves right at home.
One of the first things the Camp Director did was to instruct all drivers to park their vehicles outside the front gate. They were shown how to park in lines with the vehicles pointed out toward Pasa Sapa Road.
My inquisitiveness at this was answered by one of the men who had lived in this area all of his life: “Up here in the Hills a forest fire can spread very quickly. This time of the year is when dry lightning storms rake across this area. One lightning strike in these dry hills can spark a spreading dangerous inferno that destroys everything in its path. We are parked like this in the event of a fire coming near the camp. In that eventuality, the camp bell would ring non-stop and everyone would sprint to the vehicles, load up, and evacuate immediately. Our instructions would be to not even go back to our cabin to grab anything.”
This plan to “be ready to move out” made an impression on me, especially after Wednesday night. After ending a wonderful evening service of singing and sharing, we headed back toward our cabins. In the distant NW sky over the mountain, one bright flash of lightning split the sky after another. My friend Stan said, “Yep, that’s coming from toward Wyoming. This is just the type of storm that sets off fires in the mountains.”
After midnight the storm roared over the camp. There was no rain but plenty of howling wind and bolts of lightning and thunder. Fortunately, no fires were ignited near Kamp Kinship. Only later did we learn that several fires erupted at different locations in the Black Hills. Later that weekend we traveled into Wyoming and saw a huge wildfire that had been burning since the Wednesday night lightning storm.
Parking the vehicles pointed out at camp “ready to move out” gave me several thoughts about being ready. Here are a few:
Being ready to live – If only we would daily decide to live as if this was our last chance to suck in oxygen and see the sunset. Man, I want to be “ready to move out” and attack life with passion and joy.
Being ready to die- “No man is ready to live who is not ready to die.” No one gets up in the morning and says, “Well, I believe I’ll probably go out and die today.” Deep down inside, we humans all secretly believe we’ll be the one exception to the rule and live forever.
One time after the sudden death of a beloved young man in Dry Creek, an older person said, “When you put your shoes on in the morning, you don’t ever know who’ll be taking them off you.”
“Living ready to die” for me entails living in a personal relationship with Jesus. He is my rock, friend, savior, confidant, and guide. I’ve trusted Him for every aspect of my life, including my eternal destination. I can confidently face death knowing He is holding not only my hand, but my destiny.
Living ready to die also includes keeping a short account in my relationships with those around me. I choose not to let hurt feelings or a bad experience keep me from being in touch with others. If there is a problem, I go to them. As needed, I will apologize and seek to make things right. That is a part of living joyfully and with gratitude.
I’m going to also point the vehicle of my life so I can be ready to go… or content to stay. Many of you have heard me speak of Brett Thornton who has a tattoo on each arm. One says, “R 2 G”, while the other arm states, “C 2 S.”
These tattoos sum up his life mission: “Ready to Go, Content to Stay.” It is an attitude of readiness to go where God leads: Ready to jump in the vehicle and spin out if the bell of God’s Holy Spirit rings out. At the same time, possessing a quiet peace that we can trust God if our instructions are to stay put and dig deeper where we are.

Ready to live
Ready to die
Ready to go… content to stay.

Always ready to “move out” when needed.

Moving up… and moving out,

Curt Iles

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Info on my new book... The Mockingbird's Song

The wheels are turning for the release of my fifth book, The Mockingbird's Song.
Tentative release is scheduled for November 2006. This new book by Curt Iles from Creekbank Stories will be printed by Wise Printing of Sulphur, LA.

To learn more about this book and my other works, visit

This book will be different from my previous four books. It is woven together with stories and essays from a time of deep depression in my life in 2000-2001. Although it is a book on a sober and timely subject, it is full of hope, light, and compassion. It is built on the firm belief that not only does God not abandon us in our dark and fiery times - but He uses the fire the shape us to be better instruments for His glory and to help others as they journey along.

Although this may not be a book that every faithful reader of mine will find useful, it will fill a great need for anyone (and their families) who is going through depression, despair, or discouragement. That is my sole reason for sharing these stories from my heart.

Please help spread the word on The Mockingbird's Song.
Feel free to copy this blog and e-mail it to your friends.

The Mockingbird's Song
by Curt Iles
Copyright 2006 Creekbank Stories
ISBN 0-9705236-4-5

Thanks for all you do to encourage me in my writing ministry.

Curt Iles

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two friends: Sept. 11, 2001 "I am staying with my friend..."

Of all of the soul-touching stories from September 11, 2001, I believe the story of two friends named Abe and Ed is the best. It is gleaned from the excellent book, 102 Minutes, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn (Times Books copyright 2005)

When the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, practically everyone below the impact zones between floors 90-100 was able to escape before the tower fell over an hour and half later.

Sadly no one above the impact zone lived. All elevators and stairways were blocked. When the north tower fell 102 minutes after the initial impact, there were no survivors from the upper portions of the North Tower.

2,749 people died in the New York attacks on September 11, 2001. They each had a story and a life. Large numbers do not stay with us:
-250,000 missing or dead from the Asian tsunami.
-1667 dead from Hurricane Katrina
-Over 3000 dead in New York Washington, and Pennsylvania on that infamous morning Americans will never forget.

But when we changed those numbers into names and faces, they come to mean something personal and emotionally touch us.
Here is the story of two of those 2,749- one who could not escape, and one who chose not to escape.

Ed Beyea was on the 27th floor when the first plane hit his building at 8:46 am. Ed was a quadriplegic who had become paralyzed in a diving accident twenty years earlier. He was escorted to work each day at Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield by his aide Irma Fuller. She had hung up his jacket and set him up with the mouth stick he used to type. Irma then left and rode up to the 47th floor cafeteria to order breakfast.

As Irma came down after the initial crash we found Ed in his wheelchair at the stairwell for the 27th floor. By now the mass evacuation of the North Tower was in full force. With the elevators evidently being out of service, the stairs were the only way out.
With Ed's size (he weighed 280 pounds due to kidney problems) and his heavy motorized chair, it would take four or five big men to carry him down.

Irma saw another co-worker standing by Ed Beyea's chair. His name was Abe Zelmanowitz, another Blue Cross employee. He worked one cubicle over from Ed and they shared a very close friendship. These two men had worked together for twelve years. In spite of great differences: physical, cultural, religious, and age-wise they shared a special friendship that extended beyond work hours.
Ed Beyea was Catholic and Abe Zelmanowitz was an Orthodox Jew. Beyea was thirteen years younger and twice the size of the thin Zelmanowitz. While the wheelchair- bound Beyea talked and laughed loudly, his friend Abe was soft-spoken and unassuming. As is so often the case in life, their friendship extended across these differences and the bond of their relationship was strong. This connection they shared was to be tested and sealed in the coming hour.

Irma Fuller came upon these two men as she walked onto the stairwell landing at 27 C. Everyone was moving in the stairwell- all those above getting out and a now steady stream of rescue workers coming up, headed for the impact zone far above. By now everyone had began to sense how serious the situation was.
This included Ed, Abe and Irma. Abe Zelmanowitz told Irma to go, "l will stay with Ed." Beyea also insisted that she leave. They both told her to find someone downstairs to come up and help.

As Irma Fuller rejoined the long procession of workers snaking their way down, Zelmanowitz hollered, "Irma, we are on 27C."

In the coming hour hundreds, if not thousands, passed by the landing at 27C on their way down to safety. Many told of passing the wheelchair bound man and his friend standing beside him.
Firefighters passed by on their way up. Everyone assumed that later rescuers would come up to bring Ed Beyea down to safety.
One firefighter stopping to catch his breath stood by Abe Zelmanowitz. "Why don't you go?" he asked the office worker.
"No, I'm staying with my friend" was his quiet but sure reply

As you've probably figured out, both Ed Beyea and Abe Zelmanowitz died when the North Tower collapsed at 10:28 am.
No one carried Ed Beyea down to safety. He could have probably begged rescuers to stop their upward climb to bring him down didn'the evidently didn't.
Even more remarkably, Abe Zelmanowitz could have easily walked down the 27 flights of stairs to safety and safely went home that day. But he didn't.
He chose to stay with his friend. He made a conscious choice to remain with his friend-- win, lose, or draw. It would be easy to say he lost. But I'm not so sure that is how he would define his decision. An earlier Jewish philosopher named Solomon stated it this way,
"There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Abe was that kind of friend to his Gentile friend. No man who demonstrates that kind of friendship is ever a loser.
The words of another Jewish teacher come to my mind. Jesus, whom I follow as Lord of my life, stated, "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends."
That great love is the type that was exhibited on that horrible day on floor 27 of the North Tower.
We'll never know about the last minutes of conversation between these two men- one who couldn't escape and the other who chose not to. To read the details of the last minutes of both towers (the South tower, although hit second, fell twenty-nine minutes before the North Tower) informs one that those inside knew something terrible was occurring as the building shook, groaned, and vibrated in the death throes previous to total collapse.
I can see Ed Beyea telling Abe Zelmanowitz to leave, run, flee... He still might have time to get out. The stairways were now clear and a man flooded with adrenaline could quickly cover lots of flights going down.
But Abe had decided to stay with his friend no matter what. No matter the cost.
I am sure that Ed eventually realized that Abe would not, and could not, leave.
It is not carrying it too far to imagine these two friends calmly talking at the end reliving work stories and meals enjoyed together. I can hear Ed Beyea saying, "Abe, thanks for staying."
And his soft-spoken friends reply, "Don't mention it. You're welcome."

Two men,
Friends in life and work.
Two men,
Joined together in death,
To be remembered.

Greater love has no man ...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Battle of the Dragon and the Yellow Jacket

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Today is a special day of remembrance. It’s been four years since my friend Ricky Gallien died. His family and thousands of friends still miss him… and always will. On this day, I want to relate one of the finest and funniest stories he ever told: It is the story of the Dragon and the Yellow Jacket.

Ricky was good at so many things. His ability to work with others and get the best out of them was an attribute that made him a standout person and talented leader.
No where was that strength more evident than from his years as a basketball coach. I watched him coach at every level- Little Dribblers, Junior High, High School girls, and High School boys. He had the knack for getting the very best out of his teams and that is the mark of a true coach: taking what you have and developing it into a team.
The year that the story of the dragon/yellow jacket took place was probably Ricky’s best year of taking a team to a higher level. He took a good DeRidder High School boys team to a level no one expected: the state quarterfinals. (I believe it was 1984.)
The quarterfinal game with New Iberia High was scheduled for DeRidder’s old Pinewood gym. This was due to a rule that prohibited teams from playing in their home gym. This fine old wooden gym was packed with a huge pumped up crowd.
Here is how Ricky related what happened during warm-ups:

“DeRidder’s team, the Dragons, and the New Iberia team were warming up on the court. The packed stands, separated from the floor by a retaining wall, were full of fans from both schools. The DeRidder mascot, a student dressed in a dragon suit with a long tail, paraded up and down the sidelines exhorting the home team fans to cheer loudly.
As the New Iberia players shot lay-ups, their mascot, a student in a yellow jacket suit excitedly ran up and down the other side of the stands. He also had a tail on his outfit, but it was short. It was a hard piece of plastic representing a stinger.
As the two mascots were cheered on by their respective fans, the inevitable happened-- the dragon and the yellow jacket came upon each other right by the scorer’s desk- Right in front of the coaches bench.
The two mascots began playfully jostling with each other much to the delight and attention of the crowd. However the wrestling and grappling soon became a little more rough than playful. It is at that point that the yellow jacket began turning around and aggressiveoy poking the dragon with “his stinger.”
By now the dragon mascot had had enough. On about the third sting, the dragon reached out and punched the yellow jacket, landing a good right hook that sent the yellow jacket sprawling on the court, down for the count.”

Ricky would tell this story with a gleaming twinkle in his eye coupled with his special smirky smile. He said pandemonium broke out as the yellow jacket lay prone on the court to the astonishment of the crowd, coaches, and fans.
DeRidder Dragon fans whooped with laughter at their mascot’s action. The New Iberia Yellow Jacket faithful were (excuse this phrase) “mad as a hornet.” Ricky said that a near riot broke out. With the help of administrators, coaches, and law enforcement, the crowd was brought under control and order was restored. The Yellow Jacket, none the worse for wear, received a half-hearted handshake and apology from the Dragon and the game then started.

Even though the Dragon won the undercard, the main event was won by New Iberia’s team. They narrowly defeated DeRidder and advanced to the state tournament at LSU.
It’s been a long time since the battle in Pinewood’s gym. However I can still see it in my mind as Ricky stands there trying not to laugh as the yellow jacket goes down.

That unique smile, those twinkling eyes and his warm expression are what I will carry with me today, September 7, 2006.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Le petit baton rouge*

By Curt Iles Creekbank Stories copyright 2006
Of all of the memorable places to visit in my home state of Louisiana, Avery Island is one of my favorites. Situated on the coastal marsh below Lafayette, “The Island” is an elevated area that rises above the surrounding flat marsh. It is not really an island but is a high area due to sitting above a salt dome.
It is home to many species of waterfowl as well as alligators that may be seen when the weather is warm. We always encourage our Northern volunteers at Dry Creek Camp to visit Avery Island which is about 150 SE of us.

When you step out of your vehicle at Avery Island, a sharp pungent odor burns your nostrils. It is the smell of hot red peppers in the drifting in the air.
You are now standing at the home of Tabasco Hot Sauce. Avery Island is where this famous unique hot sauce is processed. Among the three major ingredients needed for hot sauce (salt, vinegar, and peppers) salt is in great supply there in the nearby underground salt mine.
A few years ago while touring the Tabasco plant, I first saw the red stick shown in the picture. Our tour guide explained about “le petit baton rouge”* as it is called in French (or “the little red stick” in English.)

Every pepper picker for Tabasco carries a stick like this in their hand. As they harvest the peppers, they use the little red stick to insure that they are picking the fruit at the exact color shown on the stick. When the pepper is at this redness, it is perfectly ripe to give the exact taste needed to produce the Tabasco taste that millions enjoy daily.

This stick, painted this very particular shade of red, is used as the standard for picking. Picked too early when they are still green, or too late after they’ve lost some flavor, is not acceptable. The pickers carefully compare the fruit on their bush to the red stick. Only those with the right ripeness/color are picked.

Here’s a neat application to le petit baton rouge:

As the world looks at the followers of Jesus, they are seeking to see a difference in our lives that is caused by our Savior. They are not as interested in our churches, music and preaching as they are in seeing a difference in our lives.
Here is what they are looking for: It’s a simple word called love.

When folks look at our lives, they will compare our lives to the teachings and love of Jesus. In other words, they compare our fruit to the le petit baton rouge of the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus very clearly emphasized the defining mark (or color) of a Christian in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (New International Version)
There it is: the fruit of my life as a follower of Jesus is to be the color of love. A love that begins by loving those around me as in “love one another. . . ”
But it’s also a love that refuses to stay indoors among our own kind. This Jesus-kind of love flows out in a ripple effect where lives are changed and enriched. Others are watching. They are using their petit baton rouges to judge and compare our lives. But here’s the scary part: Jesus himself, the living Son of God, is also applying his red stick to our lives.
We can never come close to meeting his standard. He was perfect, is perfect, and will always be perfect. However, by growing closer and closer to Jesus… we will take on “His Color.”
…And His Color is always love.
His “petit baton rouge” was not really petit (or little.) It was large… a large wooden cross… an instrument of death.
And just like the stick from Avery Island, it was dipped in red.
The red color on the cross was from the very blood of the Son of God.

And here is the best part: He willingly went to that cross personally for you… to pay for your sins.

What will you do personally about that? You have two simple choices: Embrace that love-gift of Jesus and commit your life and heart to Him personally… or walk by it rejecting the chance to be in relationship with the very Son of God.

You have permission to copy this story and share with others. Please acknowledge authorship and copyright.

* Our state capital Baton Rouge was so named by the early French explorers who while coming up the Mississippi noticed how the local Indians had driven red-painted sticks along the riverbank. Therefore this spot became known as “Baton Rouge.” Even today in Baton Rouge there are many businesses and addresses featuring the name “Red Stick.”