I wrote about Leeli yesterday. But, today I want to finish with three truths I took away from the story. These may not be the messages that Andrew intended, but they are messages I took away from this wonderful story. So, what did the characters and the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King” teach me?
Evil does not always take on the expected form, particularly in the beginning.
Every good story must have a compelling and dangerous villain. From book one, I have been waiting impatiently to find out more about Gnag the Nameless. Try as I might, I could not imagine what Gnag looked like. He was not only nameless, he was faceless! Was he a reptile? Was he a wolf? Was he some other hideous manifestation of animal/man crossover?
I must confess, when I finally met Gnag the Nameless I was, well, underwhelmed. This was the creature responsible for an evil wave of Fangs overtaking the world? Really? Surely we can do better than this, Andrew. But, I trusted Andrew. I knew that the best villains are not necessarily the most vicious appearing villains. The best villains are subtle, almost ordinary, and certainly instill a sense of overconfidence in those who oppose such a villain. Hmm. Sounds remarkably similar to our own Enemy. He is subtle. He moves behind the scenes. And, he assumes a pleasing or nonthreatening appearance. But, he is NOT nameless!
Andrew does not disappoint in the area of bringing out the worst in Gnag. I cannot even begin to describe the events but there is no way any reader could ever be disappointed by Gnag’s ultimate plan and his ultimate appearance.
My take on this was how the Adversary works quietly behind the scenes in our lives. He places obstacles and crises in our way to trip us up. He throws his minions at our daily lives. We get frustrated, angry, and disillusioned and we often don’t even know why. The Adversary at this stage is truly nameless, faceless, and loving every minute of it. And then, through a glimpse of Truth through the eyes of Spirit, we see how Satan has tried to stop us from doing good. And now, in the light and in the open, the Adversary becomes the Beast that he is. And that is when we must choose — fight or flight — stand and engage in spiritual battle or run away and hide. Andrew has shown us that the fight can be intimidating and we can think we are losing but God will bring us the victory over an adversary who is already defeated! Thank you, Andrew for that insight.
The plan we have for our lives is not always the plan God has for our lives.
Kalmar did not want to be a king. He just wanted to indulge his artistic expression. This desire to avoid what others wanted him to do with his life led to his big mistake of singing the song that converted him into a wolf. Of course, being a wolf placed him in the desperate situation of fighting to retain his true identity and forced him into the very situation that led him to king like behavior. Andrew deftly and authentically shows Kalmar’s struggles in the final book. He takes Kalmar literally all over the place and through the story, Kalmar grows. Not only does he end up becoming the King, but his reluctance to be the king is the very thing that makes him a good king — the servant king.
In my own personal life, I know that God has taken me down paths I never imagined. Becoming an author, a dramatist, an apologist, and a public speaker was not in my plan. But, through the years of crises and refinement in the fire of depression, God has taken me to the place in life where I have found my purpose. And, in finding that purpose, I have found true joy. Unfortunately, the joy often comes at a price as we see in “The Warden and the Wolf King”. You just need to read it to see what I mean.
Running from God will leave us confused and unhappy and out of phase with the world. When we turn toward God along the path we have been avoiding, true fulfillment happens and we glimpse the eternal plan of God and see our place in it.
Janner just doesn’t want to be the warden. He doesn’t want to have to take care of his little brother. He wants to read. He wants to settle down in the huge library of ancient books; to get lost in the lines of poetry and essays and stories. And yet, in his desire for this we see his unease, his displeasure with a sense that everything is not quite right for him. He reluctantly takes on his role as warden with disdain and ultimately guilt. Of course, we see Janner’s brave protection of his brother in spite of his inner monologue of guilt and despair. And, ultimately it is Janner’s journey I most identified with.
Ultimately, we want to do God’s will for our lives and at times, we resent that. But, we know it is the good and right thing to do so we press on. And, in the perseverance, God begins to shape us and mold us into the person He intends us to be. Then there comes that moment, when our vision transforms from the momentary to the eternal and we see through God’s eyes the grand plan unfolding from the beginning of time and our place in it and we give in to that plan; we open our mind and our heart to the inevitable; we lose ourselves in the glory of His purpose with no regard for the price. And, in that moment we are most like Christ; a pale reflection in truth but still a connection with the sacrificial Lamb that is our salvation.
Thank you, Andrew for a wonderful tale that works on so many levels to convey Truth to a world drowning in the Adversary’s lies. I know that children (and adults) will enjoy this wonderful tale for a long, long time. And, I hope that we haven’t seen the end of the Jewels of Annieria.
To Find this book use this link.
I gladly and with great anticipation received a copy of this book for this review. Readers of the first three books may feel appropriately envious!
Check out these other reviews of “The Warden and the Wolf King”:
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson
And, if you would like to check out a special offer for my three books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles, go to the order page at 11thdemon.com.
Bitter disappoint burned in my chest. I had just found out I was being released from my 5 book contract with Charisma after my second book. It was late on the first night of Hutchmoot 2012 and I wandered the beautiful grounds of Redeemer Church in Nashville crushed and weepy. I made my way back into the sanctuary to listen to our hosts regale us with song and sat on the last pew. In front of me, a young girl, probably 5 or 6 squirmed on the pew beside her mother, restless and bored. On the stage Andrew Peterson was about to sing a number from his newest album, “Light for the Lost Boy”. He told us this story:
An artist told about growing up without knowledge of God. But, somehow he knew there was Someone to watch over him, a secret Companion. Later in life, this man came to know Christ and realized that God was always with him in the quiet, desperate moments of his life. Andrew decided to write a song about this secret companion. Then, he paused and called out to his daughter. The girl on the pew in front of me snapped to attention and with great delight ran up to the stage to sing with her father. As they sang, “The Voice of Jesus” I wept silently with joy that even in the midst of my depression and disappointment, the voice of Jesus still whispered hope and love. When she joined in with her father at the end of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and a hushed, reverent stillness gripped us all. In that moment we heard not just the voices of Andrew and his daughter. We also heard the Voice of Jesus. My despair lifted and the music calmed my soul and brought me a measure of sorely needed peace.
I tell you this because when I read of Leeli in “The Warden and the Wolf King” I hear the voice of Andrew Peterson’s daughter raised in song. In fact, song and music are integral to the story of this novel and permeate throughout the narrative. This shouldn’t surprise me. Andrew Peterson’s songs are more than catchy tunes. They are deep, thoughtful reflections on our life in this imperfect world and the redemption we find in Christ’s love.
Song is so important to the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King”. I remember reading “Lord of the Rings” as a teenager and being impatient when I came to long verses of song lyrics. Most of the time, I skipped over them. And, although the songs’ words gave some framework for the world of Middle Earth, I could have done without them.
There is a scene in my play, “The Homecoming Tree” where a 13 year old boy cuts down a tree for Christmas and it falls on top of him. It knocks him out and he has a vision of his father from whom he has heard nothing since the bombing of Pearl Harbor ten days before. It is a moving and chilling scene in the midst of this play and it serves as a turning point in the boy’s life as he realizes he must put aside childish things and become a young man.
That incident is based on a true story. I wrote about my own experience cutting down a tree for Christmas at the age of 11 here. I have written well over 100 plays since 1989 and on reviewing these plays, I realize I have imbedded within these stories bits and pieces of my own life story. Characters emerged based on real people from my life experiences. Ideas and messages surfaced based on my own life lessons. Such is the life of a writer. Often, whether or not we realize it, we bring to our stories pieces of our life. Sometimes, this is conscious. Other times purely subconscious.
My wife does not like serious movies. She only goes to a movie that will make her laugh. Yesterday, she asked if we could go see “Saving Mr. Banks”. And so, I, my wife, and my daughter Casey found ourselves in a crowded theater on a Sunday evening expecting to watch a light hearted movie about Walt Disney and P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books.
We went through more than three wads of napkins. In fact, if we had brought a box of tissue with us, it would have been inadequate. I was totally unprepared for the story that played out on the screen. In short, it was depressing, uplifting, sorrowful, and joyful. I went through a dozen roller coaster moments. And, it was easily the most wonderful film I have seen in the last year.
“Saving Mr. Banks” focuses on P. L. Travers’ childhood and the influence of her father on her imagination and her life. From what I gather from the film and from reading about her, she was not a happy person. And, she was totally against Disney’s “Disneyfication” of her books. What makes the movie stand out is not Emma Thompson’s magnificent portrayal of Travers or Tom Hanks’ very serviceable portrayal of Walt Disney. Rather it is the growing realization by Travers of what her books are REALLY all about.
Now, this may sound strange to the non-writer. How can you write a book and not know what it is all about? How can you tell a story and not see all of the nuances, the sub-texts, the messages hidden within the story?
My first book, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” is a straight forward supernatural thriller about the influence of good and evil in our lives. It centers around demons and angels and the humans caught in the midst of this spiritual battle. I created a villain, a rich, manipulative corrupt businessmen, Robert Ketrick. I was stunned when a life long friend of mine read the book and commented, “I get what the book was all about. It was about greed and avarice. Your demons were metaphors for the way in which a love of money damages people.”
What? No, that was never my intent. My demons were not figurative. They were literal, real destructive beings in the book. They were NOT metaphors! However, if the story did have that message for this particular reader and it made him think about the destructive power of greed, then I did do some good with the book.
After seeing this movie, I stopped and asked myself if my first book was about greed after all. Did I subconsciously associate wealth with evil? Do I see rich people as inherently greedy, evil, manipulative, and demon possessed? Good question. Because, as a writer, all of my preconceived notions color every aspect of my writing. Perhaps I need to stop and examine my past and see if I was emotionally damaged by a wealthy person; if I felt betrayed because I grew up in poverty and was deprived as a child. Was that possible? The answer will wait for another blog post.
The point I’d like to make is the power of our past to drive and color the present expressions of our imagination and creativity. Our own personal demons; the ghosts of our past; the “messages” that programmed us as children are still there. I would like to think I have pushed them away into a corner of my mind. I would like to think I have healed. But, watching Travers as the childish innocence of Disneyland brought back painful memories of her father and his battle with substance abuse brought pain back into her life, I began to wonder.
All of us are Story. Every one of us is a story in and of itself. Elements of our Story are our backstory, our background, our past. And, those back looking elements will forever determine our future. The questions we must ask is if the future they bring about is a better one because we have grown and matured. Or, will it be a worse future because of our bitterness and anger. P. L. Travers’ books touched and moved millions of children and adults and continue to do so. If she had not suffered through the traumas of her childhood, there would never have been a Mary Poppins. But, it was obvious from this film and from other sources she was far from a happy person. I did a little research and she died at age 96. Here is a quote about her death: “According to her grandchildren, Travers died not loving anyone and nobody loving her.” How truly sad! To have brought so much happiness to the lives of millions and yet, to die “not loving anyone nobody loving her.”
Look in the mirror, I said in response to that quote. In my own life, the tragedies, the crises, the pains of my past life all serve to build on one another and with my joys, my triumphs, and the abundance of joy being a child of God brings me, these elements serve to produce more stories. I cannot forget the elderly woman who saw the tree scene mentioned above in its earliest version in a play called “The Night Gift”. In that play, an elderly man tells the story of being a boy who cut down a Christmas tree and learned his father had died at Pearl Harbor in a vision. I took that older man and wrote his childhood story for the play, “The Homecoming Tree”. But that little snippet from the earlier play touched the life a one woman. After the last performance of “The Night Gift” she came up to me and here is our conversation:
“Are you the person who wrote this play?’
“I want you to know my brother died at Pearl Harbor. And, I was so mad that he died, I’ve hated him all of my life. And, I blamed God for his death. Well, young man, tonight you gave me the opportunity to tell my brother goodbye. And, to make peace with God. Thank you!”
How could I have possibly known that one cold afternoon while trying to cut down a Christmas tree and almost getting hurt and possibly killed in the process, that incident in my life would one day become part of my Story. How could I have possible known that a painful memory could become a scene in a play or a book? How could I have possibly known that these painful memories would resonate with a total stranger; that the story from my life would intersect with a stranger’s story? How could I possibly imagine that my little snippet of a story would be the Answer to a life long prayer; a pleading for understand; a search for release from bitterness and anger? Like the greed metaphor, that was never my intention. But, it was God’s!
If you are creative in any sense of the word, you MUST go see “Saving Mr. Banks”. It is a powerful and amazing story. It has inspired me. It has uplifted me. It has given me such solace and peace for this tortured soul of a writer. It has made my puny efforts and my doubts fly away like a kite soaring up “where the air is clear”.
Go fly a kite! Go see this movie! And, then come home to the cloistered world of your life and tell your Story! And then see how God uses it to make this world a better place than you found it!
I’m finally able to type again after suffering pain and neural tingling in my right hand from a disc herniation. I couldn’t let the year end without a blog post. I’d like to share a short story with you. I’ve often wondered what happened after George Bailey’s friends saved the day in my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I hope you have seen this movie. If not, please, please watch it before 2013 is history. So, for your enjoyment here is my imagination of what happened to George Bailey and his nemesis, Mr. Potter. And, I know the movie is copy written so this is just for fun. Enjoy!
Happy New Year!
A Bedford Falls New Year!
The jail cell was cold and dank. Someone had forgotten to replace the light bulb and only a few strand rays of limpid light fell through the barred window. Even through the thick, ice covered glass of the window, the man sitting in his wheelchair could hear the revelers outside. He snorted and sniffed in anger as he tried to ignore the voices raised in song and celebration.
He rubbed an arthritic hand over his pale face, massaging his downturned mouth. He blinked his heavy eyelids and peered into the dark shadows of his cell for any sign of relief.
“I want to speak to my assistant, do you hear?” He bellowed, not for the first time. His words fell on deaf ears, swallowed up by the cold indifference to his very existence. “Do you know who I am? I’ll have the sheriff throw every one of you in jail!” He grabbed the wheels of his chair and tried to push himself toward the door to his cell. It was a dark, rust stained metal door with a barred window too far above his head to do him any good. He gasped for breath as he tried to push his chair closer. He was not used to moving his own chair. His assistant pushed him everywhere. He realized this was a sign of weakness. He should never have become dependent on another human being.
He came within an arm’s reach of the cell door and banged his fist against the metal. It was cold and rough with bits of rust. “Let me out of here, I tell you! I own this town! I own the sheriff! I’ll foreclose on everyone of your houses, you vermin!”
A shadow eclipsed the wan light coming from the hallway and a face appeared in the window. “Sir, you need to be quiet or we will have you physically restrained.”
The old man squinted toward the window. “This is outrageous! Let me out of here!”
“I’m sorry, but you have been arrested for theft.”
“I want my lawyer.” The old man wheezed and began to cough.
“It’s Christmas day. We can’t find your lawyer.” The man in the window said. “Can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to see you in this jail cell. I was telling my friend, Ernie, how wonderful it was to actually arrest you and throw you in this cell! Let me ask you something. You own the bank. You own every business in town, but one. Why would you throw all that away by stealing $8000 from one of your own bank customers!”
“It was a mistake, I tell you.” The old man wiped tears from his cheek as his coughing session finally ended. “I found that money in my newspaper.”
“Found $8000 just lying around tucked inside your newspaper? Who in their right mind would let something like that happen?” The man in the windows asked.
“That crazy old accountant, that’s who. He’s lost most of his mind. He’s daffy!” The old man pointed a gnarled finger at the window.
“Oh, so you saw the accountant put the money in your newspaper? If you didn’t want to steal it, why didn’t you tell the accountant he had misplaced his money? Seems to me, you saw a chance to steal something you could never get your hands on, and you took it. And, I’m not talking about the money. I’m talking about the business . . .”
“I know what you’re talking about! I swore out an arrest for the real thief and he should be in here instead of me. Now, go do you job and arrest him and let me go.”
The man in the window pulled away and the old man heard another voice in the hallway.
“Bert, I want to talk to him.” The old man recognized the voice immediately and his face grew hot with anger.
“George, you should go home and be with your family.” Bert said.
“I need to talk to him, Bert. Just a few minutes.”
The old man wheeled himself painfully away from the door and grit his teeth. How should he handle this? He could still get the upper hand. If he planned this carefully . . . The door grated and opened. A tall man stood silhouetted against the light in the hallway and his shadow stretched across the jail cell and covered the old man in darkness.
“I suppose you’ve come here to gloat?” The old man said. “Well, you can just turn around and go back to your scruffy little family. I’ll be out of here in no time and I plan on launching a law suit against you and your firm that will finally crush your building and loan business.”
George stepped into the room and moved to the side to sit on the room’s only piece of furniture, an old Army cot. He held a fedora in his hands and he placed it on his knee. He wore a nice suit with some fraying of the threads along the lapels and a jaunty tie with red and green bows on it. He wiped at his long face and blinked.
“Mr. Potter, I know that I should just sit here and soak all of this in. Imagine. The great Mr. Potter sitting in a jail cell. Who would have thought such a thing was possible?”
Before Potter could open his mouth something exploded against the outside window. Potter jerked and George glanced over his shoulder. Red pulpy flesh dripped down the outside of the window. “Waste of a good tomato.” George said.
A voice echoed from outside the window. “I hope you rot in that cell, Potter!” Other voices joined in, rising in volume, blending into a cacophony of cursing and threats. A whistle interrupted the voices and Bert’s voice was heard ushering the mob away.
“I suppose you put that unruly mob up to this, George. I’ll add that to the law suit.” Potter growled.
George sighed. “Mr. Potter, I don’t have to say a word for the people of this town to rise up against you. You’ve held so many things over their heads for so long that now you’re locked up, they realize you can’t hurt them anymore. No, I don’t have to speak a word. You are your own worst enemy.”
Potter rubbed his hands together. “Well, I guess you’ve finally won, George. So, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll speak to the bank board and the city attorney about this mixup in the money and have them drop all the charges. I’ll even forget the law suit. You can go on taking care of your unruly mob of friends and I’ll get back to the real business of running the business of this town.”
“And, the $8000?”
“You realize it was you’re own dim witted uncle that lost that money?”
“And, it didn’t take you long to find it, right?” George said. “Mr. Potter why didn’t you just call up my office and tell me what happened? We could have avoided all of this.”
“George, your building and loan has been a pain in my backside for years. And, suddenly, I was handed the very tool I needed to bury you.” Potter smiled. “I did nothing wrong, George. It was all the doings of one of your employees. He lost the money and your business should have gone under. I refuse to back down from that. But now that you have beaten me, George, I’ll give in. I’ll put you on the board of directors of the bank and award you a sizable portion of the stock and bond options. You can finally have enough money to get everything you want. What do you say?”
George smiled. “Mr. Potter, last night I almost threw away God’s greatest gift to me, my own life. He showed me that the most important thing in this world is not money or stocks or bonds or positions of power. It’s people, Mr. Potter. Friends and family whose lives have intersected with mine. God has used this measly little old building and loan clerk to change the world, Mr. Potter. And, you want to hear something amazing?”
Potter raised an eyebrow. “Do I have a choice? Go on with your sentimental hogwash.”
“He used you, Mr. Potter. You were part of this grand plan of His, too. Now, when Bert handed me this bunch of papers a while ago,” George pulled out a folded bunch of documents from his inner coat pocket and tapped them against his leg. “I was understandable elated. You see, Mr. Potter, the board of directors of the bank met this morning and stripped you of everything. You are no longer the president and owner. They seized your stock and bond options. Then, the bank turned over all mortgages and loans to me. Imagine that, Mr. Potter. The world has turned upside down. I’m in charge of this town now. Not you.”
Potter gasped and his face grew pale. “I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”
George stood up and placed the papers in Potter’s lap. “See for yourself, Mr. Potter. You’re finished, kaput, gone with the wind. You’ll spend the rest of your life right here in this cold, dank jail cell. Even your own assistant turned against you and right now, the sheriff is searching your home for more hidden skeletons in the closets.”
Potter grabbed the papers and squeezed them tightly as veins stood out on his forehead. He hurled them aside and they separated in the air, raining down on the floor in a gentle susurration. “You scurvy little rat! This is far from over, Bailey.”
“I’m afraid it is, Mr. Potter. I’m afraid it is. Now, if you are interested in turning your life around, all you have to do is say a little prayer for help and my friend, Clarence will help you gain a new perspective on your life.” George walked toward the door.
“Who’s this Clarence?”
“An angel, Mr. Potter.” George paused and looked around the cell. “There is one thing you were right about. I came her to gloat. But, I realize I’ve been given a second chance at life so I can’t hold anger and bitterness against you anymore. Mr. Potter, I forgive you.”
“Forgive me? How dare you!” Potter sputtered.
“You might want to consider asking for forgiveness for yourself. Because, when I close this door, either you’ll spend the rest of your days with an angel. Or,” George slowly closed the door until only his face could be seen through the tiny door’s windows. “you’ll spend it with your own private demons. Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter.”
Potter opened his mouth to respond as George disappeared. He glanced around at the dark shadows of his chamber. “Me, ask for forgiveness. Never!” He screamed. “Do you hear me, never!” His voiced echoed into silence and through the window he heard the voices of people singing Christmas carols. “Never!” He whispered.
The papers stirred around his feet and something moved in the blackest corner of his cell. He peered into the shadows and two tiny red eyes blinked.
“Seasons Greetings, Mr. Potter!” a raspy voice echoed through the chamber filling Mr. Potter’s heart with an unfamiliar sensation, dread.
I am so grateful for all of you who follow my blog and read my book series. On this Thanksgiving Day I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for my very life, my very existence, my redemption, and for my purpose. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you live in the Shreveport area, don’t forget to come by Friday night, December 6th for my book signing and launch of “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos”. All four of my books will be available and they would make GREAT Christmas gifts!
And as a treat for any of my readers anticipating the next book, here is the FIRST CHAPTER of “The 11th Demon”:
Grimvox reference USNA-FCaskey111563
November 1963 Dallas, Texas
“Shall I kill the human?”
I wearily lifted my head at the sound of the demon’s voice. His host body wore a brown
Nehru jacket, and a silver chain hung around his neck. On the chain, a red jewel glistened in the weak light. The demon’s features were dark beneath a shock of black hair. His eyes were disturbing: totally white with no pupils.
“We need him.” The pale man standing next to the demon stared at me with his red eyes. His face was ageless beneath his bare scalp and marred only by a star-shaped scar on his cheek. He wore a long black overcoat and black pants. A stray ray of muted sunlight came through the shrouded windows of the abandoned asylum. In that meager light, his chest glowed in the darkness. He moved across the debris-strewn floor to crouch before me. “His will has been gutted. The fight has gone out of him. Isn’t that right, Father?”
“Then why do we keep him alive?” The demon crossed his arms over his chest.
The pale man nodded and licked his large teeth with a very red tongue. “He is our only connection with the girl.”
So that was why they wanted me. They were using me to get to Mary!
“Don’t look away from me, Father,” the man said. “Unlike most of your kind, the touch of your flesh does not harm me.” He pressed his cool fingertips against my cheek and turned my
face around so all I could see were his hideous red eyes. His breath smelled of fire smoke and vinegar. “For you see, Father, you are a failure. You think you serve your master, but your love for the girl’s mother has undone your commitment.”
I jerked away from his touch and struggled against the ropes holding me to the chair. “If you hurt her, I will kill you!”
The demon laughed, his voice echoing up into the empty rafters of the hospital ward. “You cannot kill Lucas, human. Now, Lucas, where is the girl? I need her.”
I glanced at the demon and his empty white eyes. “Please don’t harm her.”
“Please don’t harm her.” He mocked me and shook his head. “I have plans for her, human. Why would I want to harm her?” He removed the necklace from his neck and held it up to the ray of light. As it moved, the jewel changed from pale green to vivid red. “Do you see this jewel? Watch how it changes color with a shift in your perspective. It is the Metastone, human. I plan to give this to the girl’s mother as a gift. It will not harm either of them. In fact, it will transform them!” He sighed and placed the jewel back around his neck. “Why am I even trying to explain these matters to a mortal? Lucas, take me to the girl, and then we will no longer need this human.”
“Perhaps we do not need to kill him yet.” Lucas squatted before me and tilted his head to the side as those crimson eyes regarded me. “I am wondering, Father, why you have not tried to exorcise my friend’s demon? Hmm?” He tilted his head the other way and blinked slowly like some great white reptile. “Why haven’t you just spoken the Words? I know why, Father. You have lost your connection with the Power, haven’t you? It is because of your love for this woman—what is her name? Millie?”
“Molly,” I whispered. Nausea overtook me and I retched. Lucas was right. I was empty, impotent. I could no longer see my Lord; only the girl and Molly’s hauntingly beautiful face.
“You see, Father, it is not the eleventh demon who has harmed the girl.” He reached out, grabbed my collar, and tore it from my neck. “It is you.” He grasped the top of my shirt and ripped it from my body. I shivered in the cold air as Lucas gestured to the demon. “For you have forsaken the only Power that would allow you to defeat this demon and to save them. In betraying your master, you have unwittingly betrayed your love.” He unbuttoned his coat and it fell open to reveal his bare chest. “You are lost, Father. But, there is one way you can save the mother and the girl: Swear allegiance to the eleventh demon. Once you do, this mark,”— he brushed his coat aside and a hideous tattoo of a beast stirred to life on his flesh—“will be yours. It will live right here.” His cold fingers caressed the skin at the base of my neck and I flinched.
Lucas’s chest was covered with tattoos. A scorpion squirmed across his collarbone. The head of a wolf howled over his breastbone. But, these were no ordinary tattoos. They lived! Arcane creatures moved and struggled on his white flesh. This new tattoo was one I instantly recognized. I had seen it in the ancient book—I wish I had never opened it! The creature was a chimera, a beast with the head of a lion, a snake for a tail, and, coming out of its back, the head of a goat.
“If I swear allegiance to the eleventh demon, will the lasses be safe?” I closed my eyes and saw Molly standing at the church altar with the girl’s hand in hers. God forgive me!
“I do not need the allegiance of this creature, Lucas!” the demon said, moving across the trash-covered floor without stirring any of the debris. He floated above it all and came to rest behind Lucas. “My patience is wearing thin. The timing of my plan is critical.”
Lucas stood up and raised an eyebrow. “Your plan?” he asked the demon as he studied my face.
“This is the year the Council begins its grand plan to rain chaos down upon this ‘one nation under God.’ Unfortunately, at times, the Dark Council is thwarted by the Other. To deal with such a possibility, I have developed contingency plans of my own to complement those of the Council. And for those plans, I will need the girl.”
Lucas tensed and his gaze shifted to the demon. “Contingency plans? You play a dangerous game. The Council’s plans have been long in the making.”
The eleventh demon shrugged. “You know very well that each member of the Council develops his own backup plans! We are far from united in our efforts.” He examined his fingernails. “Your faith in the Council is well known, Lucas. Since you are such a toady for the Council, go tattle on me if it pleases you.”
“Toady?” Lucas frowned. “I do not serve the Council of Darkness, Chimera. I serve the Master. Would you like to tell the Master that you think his right hand man is a ‘toady’?”
The demon stiffened. “Listen, underling, you will not speak to me that way! I know what you are and you are not one of the Fallen. You may be the right hand of the Master, but I am far superior to you. The Master trusts me, Lucas. Take me to the girl. Now!” His voice grew in volume and for a second, I saw the beast that possessed the human rear its ugly head. It was like a specter surrounding the man.
Lucas smiled, his impossibly white teeth gleaming in the darkness. “If what you say is true, then you will not mind if I consult the Master.” Lucas held out his hand. A swirl of red smoke billowed from his palm like a small tornado and then a pleasant, handsome face appeared in the smoke. Was this Lucifer? He was more fair than foul.
“Chimera, you try my patience,” he said from the smoke. His eyebrows arched and his face twisted in anger. “If you insist on continuing with your ‘contingency plan,’ then I want your talisman.”
The demon stepped back. “No!”
“Lucas, take care of this!” Lucifer bellowed. He disappeared as Lucas closed his palm. Lucas gazed at his empty hand and slowly clenched it into a tight fist. “The master is well
aware of the lack of cohesion in the Council, Chimera. He wants me to have leverage. So I am gathering the talismans of the members of the Dark Council. If you wish to fulfill your plan, you will give me the talisman.” He glared at the demon with his crimson eyes. “Or shall I summon the Master to speak to you in person?”
The eleventh demon’s face paled. “I will not allow this human to see my talisman.”
Talisman? Clearly, it wasn’t the Metastone they were talking about; I could see the jewel glittering on the demon’s chest. “What is a talisman?”
Lucas glanced at me. “I tore yours away, Father.” He retrieved my stained collar and held it up with two long, delicate fingers. “This once meant everything to you, didn’t it? Now, it means nothing. So easily discarded at the touch of a woman’s hand.” Lucas dropped my collar on the floor and stepped on it. “The eleventh demon’s talisman is not the jewel that hangs about his neck. That is merely a tool, Father. No, his talisman is as important and defining as your collar was to you. And, he does not want you to see it.” Lucas rubbed his hands together. “I think that can be arranged.”
The demon nodded and reached into his pocket. Something long and golden flashed in his palm. I tried to focus on it, but it was blurred, indistinct, otherworldly. “What is that?”
The demon floated toward me and the odors of fire and soot surrounded us. He knelt before me, the golden talisman flickering in the periphery of my vision. He put his left hand, hot and sweaty, on my forehead. I tried to pull away from those hideous empty eyes. Lucas moved behind me and held my head in his cold hands.
“I will let you keep one eye so that you may see the fate that awaits those who follow in my footsteps. For the eleventh demon demands total commitment, Father! Will you renounce your allegiance and find love with the mother of this girl? If so, you will be mine, and your death may be avoided.”
I was frozen with fear, paralyzed by their inhuman power. The thin gold needle appeared at the edge of my vision. It plunged into my right eye, and then there was pain beyond imagining.
I am giving my last radio interview today on “Violent Video Games and their relationship to Teenage Violence”. And, as has happened to me before, several seemingly totally unrelated events have come together to put all of the past few weeks into perspective.
Yesterday, I reviewed “The Little Seer” for an new author, Laura Cowan. I wondered why God had placed this “divine” appointment in my path when I was already so busy with building a platform for my books and attending the PLATFORM conference. One of my takeaways from the book was the realization of how evil can destroy a life. How the enemy uses his minions to target a person, in this case the character of Tara and not only destroy other people through that person, but destroy the person in the process. I write about demons and spiritual warfare. And, in the years since I have started to do this, I have had personal attacks directed against me by forces of evil. Some of them I have recounted in past blog posts, such as the Devil house in Austin.
Now, let me take you in a lateral move to violent video games. When I started researching the effect of our current culture on young adults way back in May, 2012 as preparation for my update to our Conquering Depression book, I had no idea I would be studying violent video games. My son, Sean, is an avid game player. I have posted his comments on this phenomenon in the past few weeks and I urge the reader to review those posts. Sean began playing video games at an early age on my Commodore 128 computer. Last week, while attending the PLATFORM conference in Nashville, Sean and I had a great time together. On our last day together before I took him to the airport to fly back to his lovely wife in Austin, we stopped off at one of favorite haunts, Best Buy. There is nothing quite like geeking out with your son at Best Buy! As we walked through the door we entered the first “zone” and it was video games. Sean paused, looked around and made an amazing statement. “This used to be my area.”
Used to be? I looked at him in amazement. He went on to say he had practically given up playing video games, specifically violent first person shooter games in the weeks since he and I started talking about this phenomenon. Wow! I was impressed. Let me say this again. The boy has been playing video games his entire life — heavily immersed in video games — hours on end — online with his friends! And now, he has practically given them up! This was a stunning revelation to me. Why? He was tired of the only option for advancing a story — to kill or be killed. There is more to a story than this. There is more to life than this!
Yesterday at dinner, I sat across from my daughter, Casey. She is 25 and is still living at home battling epilepsy and migraines. She has suffered from seizures since age 8 and the story of her life is one of heroism and defiance to this horrific disease. She is one of the strongest people I know on the face of this planet. Recently, we have discovered that her seizures are migraine auras. We are changing out her medication completely. This has left her on an emotional roller coaster as she weans herself off of one drug and onto another. As a consequence, Casey has led a very sheltered life. And now, most of her friends are online — girls in distant parts of the country. Yesterday, I saw in her a deep oppression, a deep depression, a weight of worry and anxiety unlike anything she has faced. Instead of her online friends encouraging her and helping to build her up, these girls are sucking the very life out of her. Surrounded by needy, emotionally labile friends, Casey is desperately trying to please her friends; to help her friends; to encourage her friends. Only the energy is flowing in one direction — over the wifi into the world of ether and faceless “friends” leaving her listless and emotional empty.
This is the bane of their generation. They cannot exist without the internet and yet, all human relations become virtual. There is a danger of becoming isolated and disconnected from real people and, reality. This is the danger of addictive video games, as I have said in my interviews. This is the danger to this generation; a loss of interpersonal relational skills; a deepening, oppressive, paralyzing isolation into a totally self centered world where the greatest danger is becoming your own god.
Last night all of this came together in a sudden and shocking realization. Was Casey like Tara in “The Little Seer”? More specifically, was she like Aria, the main character? Isolated and alone at the hands of jealous, evil oppressed “friends” and not realizing her own special beauty as a “daughter of God”? I gasped as the realization settled in. Thank you Laura for writing your book! Thank you God for giving me insight and discernment.
For you see, my son has been under oppression for years with the evil that naturally resides in the the story of these video games. It had effected him and held him back from a healthy relationship with God. And, now, this is happening to my daughter! I immediately called my wife this morning and we are going to pray for Casey; pray with Casey; bind up the evil forces around her; and help her see that she is a beautiful, radiant daughter of God; meant for happiness and joy; meant for a life filled with light and love; meant to be so much more than the punching bag for a bunch of selfish, anonymous souls suffering in solitude on the internet.
So, here it is in a nutshell. We live in a world full of evil. It is growing in influence and power every day. It’s greatest ally is our isolation and loneliness. For in our solitude, we risk the danger of becoming our own god. But, there is light in the world. Satan is already defeated and God is waiting right where we left Him. He can deliver us out of this solitude by showing us that we are never alone; we are created in His image — an image of love and laughter and creativity and community and joy. Pray for my children. A selfish request on my part. Pray for your own children as they struggle in this world that is increasingly hostile to God. Be a part of their lives. If you are a young adult, seek the company of others — find real community and stop getting pulled into the false reality of video games that are just that — games. Know when to turn off the console and walk outside into the real world and look around. When you do, you will SEE GOD!!!!!
As humorous and hilarious as the chapters were in “Night of the Living Dead Christian” the Interludes were powerful and moving. It is in the Interludes that Matt Mikalatos brings home the goods. Here is an excerpt from one of the first interludes with the “werewolf” Luther Martin about his father, a pastor.
“My father’s inflexibility, his unpleasable nature, and the paucity of sincere affection all haunted my youth. But as Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, “A man knows when he is growing old because he beings to look like his father.” I can look back now, and insights about my father’s nature and intention become clear to me. He did not intend to teach me theology at the expense of a relationship with himself, or for that matter, with God, though that is what he did. He did not meant to drive my brother out of the house or out of the church, but that is what he did. He did not mean to take his anger and grief about my brother’s prodigal lifestyle and use them to turn the screws on my own theological education, but that is what he did.”
Further on Luther says, “My entire life reflected on him, it seemed, and when I first learned the story of my poor brother, Marty, standing up in the middle of a service and declaring himself an atheist before walking out the door, never to return, I immediately envied him, understood him, and pitied him for his flamboyant dramatic streak.”
Matt goes on to uncover one of the most powerful truths about those who have chosen to be atheists in this revelation from Luther:
“You ask me why I hate my father. I can only say that hate, loathing, disgust, all these words would be too strong to explain my feelings for my father. I have felt these things and moved beyond them to a sincere and placid lack of thought about him.”
Recently I had the opportunity to hear Frank Turek speak on his apologetic ministry. I was stunned when he said that when a person rejects God so many times and crosses that threshold into an area where God removes His forgiveness, then to that person God no longer exists. It’s not like God is still there hovering hoping for the person to change their mind. No, God removes His presence. God leaves the person alone which is exactly what that person wants! The person truly becomes an atheist because for him, God no longer exists!
I never thought of it that way but this idea comports itself with Romans 1. And, here, in this ditzy, crazy, monster filled book, Matt Mikalatos nails it! Dinesh D’Souza in his latest book, “Godforsaken”, says that atheists are really “wounded theists” hurt by someone, most likely their father. They look at God through the lens of the pain that was dealt to them in the name of God by their fathers.
Some readers may find the humor and rapid fire story of “Night of the Living Dead Christian” too much. But, it is worth the roller coaster ride just to pause and soak up the Interludes. Here, Matt reveals a powerful truth by “showing” not “telling”. The truth that we are often hurt by those who love us the most and in that hurt, we look at a loving God through fractured, splintered lenses. We see God as we see our flawed fathers and mothers and brothers and pastors and friends and sisters. We see God as someone we would just as soon have a “sincere and placid lack of thought about him.” Read those quotes again and then read the book.
Do you know someone who has walked out the door and away from God? If so, why not extend to them a loving hand; a helpful heart; an understanding that Matt extends to a lonely, hurt werewolf whose idea of God is that of a hateful, disgusting father. Sometimes when these questions arise, it’s not answers they seek. It’s understanding and connection and empathy. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the ending of this book, not in detail to spoil it, but in substance to understand the most powerful Interlude.