Leighton Kramer is the author of Bolivar Heights: When Failure is Not Final. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Religious Education at the Bible Missionary Institute in Rock Island, Illinois, and is currently attending a graduate program in Theology at Cairn University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Leighton is a minister and writer of Holiness literature. He has pastored churches in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and has served as a special speaker and evangelist at schools, youth camps, rallies, and revivals for the Bible Missionary Church as well as in the general Holiness Movement. He lives in south central Pennsylvania where he works in ministry.
When did you start working as a writer?
After having graduated from Bible College I accepted a call to pastor a small church in the mountains of West Virginia and it was while pastoring there at Onego Bible Missionary Church that my wife and I took over producing a monthly periodical for the district church which featured both an editorial as well as a devotional... overseeing this project each month would keep each my mind, imagination, and pen in constant motion. Additionally, I wrote articles for a denominational church paper with international circulation called the Missionary Revivalist. I felt like this opportunity expanded my ability to influence and minister for Christ around the globe through the avenue of a pen in a way that I had never experienced before and it was writing that afforded me that great privilege. A third opportunity to write presented itself in the form of being a guest writer for the Bible Missionary Church Sunday School literature department. I found that my assisting in this capacity and from the platform of a writer was a tremendous honor and never turned down a request to be of service. All three of these opportunities helped me to develop as a writer of holiness literature but also served as an avenue to wet my appetite in developing my craft for something more.
You’re an author but also a minister, how do you think the one informs the other?
I consider myself a minister first in that I view it as a sacred call from God to me. My writing is a weapon in my arsenal to assist me in being most effective in that endeavor. That being said, I whole heartedly subscribe to the reality that writing is an art form and when done effectively can produce results that far exceed that of the spoken word. A truly gifted word smith can paint pictures and convey messages in a way to which the most gifted orator could only dream. A very special lady in my life “Granny Rosa” would put it in perspective this way; telling me as a young seminary student that, ‘if you truly wanted to see a man’s soul don’t listen to what he says… read what he writes.” Additionally, I have found that in the ministry there are legions of people who will never grace me with their presence and come and hear me preach, but will read what I write if given the opportunity. The printed page affords me that golden opportunity as it has a way of not only finding people in places and times to which I could never access without the assistance of my pen, but also influence and impact those same otherwise quite illusive souls in a very personal and meaningful way.
What inspired you to write Bolivar Heights?
Bolivar Heights is my way of taking ownership of events, circumstances, and experiences in my own life and ministry through the avenue of my pen in telling a story. When I started writing Bolivar Heights it was done so more for therapeutic recreation in a way that one might journal in order that he/she might chronical an event or vent regarding their realities. In putting my pen to paper for this project I found myself ever conscientious of confidences or secrets to which I had been entrusted during my early ministerial journey and that thus writing in third person as well as changing times, places, and names to protect those same secrets would be most effective. By adopting this method, I would not be compromising the greater message, philosophical or theological lesson, implication, or reality accompanying that same idea concept or story to which I would be addressing. Bolivar Heights is the marriage of intellect to emotion in that it is addressing deep theological truths, concepts and ideas through the lens of one boy turned man’s spiritual journey. This story is seen through the lens of the ecclesiastical world, but also a very personal and spiritual one.
Why did you choose fiction over nonfiction?
In this particular story fiction gives me the freedom and flexibility to be honest with the reader in a way true diplomacy would never allow. This book is not a tell all with the idea of righting any wrongs or validating anybody or thing. As a writer I have no ax to grind and never hold a grudge- who am I to withhold mercy? I believe in the law of reaping and sowing and I believe in justice. The law should be just and I should be merciful - and the two can coexist. It is possible to love both mercy and the law. I believe BH speaks to that reality- a spiritual law of gravity if you will. The stories and journey described in BH are real and happened. They did not happen necessarily in the time order or way in which they were always written. This allowed me to protect people and secrets not meant for the printed page without compromising the oftentimes powerful truths to which they speak. It also allowed me to combine characters and circumstances, situations, and events in a way as to better convey a thought, perspective or idea. In writing BH I felt as though I was painting a picture with words and considered it a work of art in how I colored or shaded my story across the canvas of Clay Kean’s life.
How would you describe your book?
Bolivar Heights is dripping with sweeping rhetoric born of a master spinner of yarns :blush:, but under the current of seeming subtle yet equally eloquent story written in lines of grace …an appeal to the writer to examine his/her own life in a very personal, pointed, and powerful way. It is my conviction the reader will doubtless find themselves asking throughout the book- what would I have done? Or how would I have responded? What is right here? Or could it really be so as described within these pages? I suspect the book will come alive in the night hours and steal away the sleeping time of many a reader, but not for naught. The introspection and depth to which I suspect it will produce will not be without merit. The story of Clay Keane is being examined through a spiritual lens, an ecclesiastical lens, and a personal(human) lens. One man’s journey with three worlds looking on. Ultimately, we chronicle his rise, his fall, and hopefully his restoration in the one life to which he will ever live.
What do you mean by the sub title When failure is not final?
In chronicling Clay’s journey, the book addresses three main crisis points: 1. His conversion- who or what will he serve? I’m operating on the premise here that everyone serves something or someone. We were made that way. 2. His calling- in this case, Clay’s call to the ministry which serves as a type of Rubicon to him. If he should heed and obey this seeming call from another world what will that mean and how will that impact the rest of his life and all those within it? 3. His companion- is it true that behind every great man is a strong woman? It was my granny Rosa that once reminded me; “Son, across the years I’ve worked with hundreds of otherwise talented young preacher boys, full of ambition and ability but they chose wrong in their companion and it was there ruin.” BH not only speaks to these three crises questions and journeys with Clay as he navigates them but also addresses times and seasons of failure regarding them and what then? It is the writer’s conviction that the world doesn’t know how to handle failure- it is equally my conviction that failure does not have to be final. I have an attitude toward to the past. I take it seriously. I’m thankful for yesterday’s blessing but am not living off them. I take the mistakes and failures in my own life as well as that of others seriously and I want to learn from them, but will not be taken hostage by them. I am a man with a forward look!
What are the main points you like the reader to take away?
I am 39 as of the time of this interview and like a legion before me have already pulled up many long and steep places like those to which I have written about in BH. Many times, in my short life and ministry my heart has ached and throbbed and my spirit panted within me, the lips called out to God while the life struggled on with its load for the top most height.
To date, I have gotten over many sad and hard places and left numberless hills between me and my ever-growing distant past. Doubtless, many steep grades remain for which I must conquer and there is one swell of ground, called the grave, which is waiting for us all to get over. But I have no question whatsoever in my mind that if we will keep the flame of love for God, His law, and our fellow man alive and burning in our soul which Christ Himself lighted there years ago, we will one day all run up that last grade, cross the final hill, view the city of God as it bursts into our sight and will rush forth with a shout of exultation and victory into everlasting life and glory!
In vivid, lyrical, and often elegiac prose, Bolivar Heights weaves a tale of intrigue through a series of stories and anecdotes told by a master spinner of yarns. Leighton Kramer is an anointed writer and powerful preacher. Wilene Rosa, instructor (retired) from Bible Missionary Institute, taught Leighton for several years during his time at seminary and considered him one of the most graceful young men she ever saw in the pulpit where he used unique illustrations and recounted them with drama, pathos, and power. Bolivar Heights is Leighton at his best and propels the reader to discover some of the grim realities and challenges of the ecclesiastical world as seen and chronicled through the lens of one man’s spiritual journey through them.
Characterized by simplicity in style, clearness of expression, beauty of diction, and strength of thought, Bolivar Heights is marked by an evangelical spirit and Scriptural soundness. By skillfully telling this story, Kramer brings the character, Clay Keane, and others to life in a most profound and intimate way, all the while weaving a tale in which love overcomes fear, hope overcomes despair, and the incredible human spirit rises up to embrace spiritual renewal, revival, and reconciliation in the face of devastating loss and personal destruction.