Jammy dodgers, fish fingers and custard, and bowtie pasta for Christmas?
Either you get it or you don’t.
It’s not a matter of arrogance on my part. It is a matter of appreciation of a well done, well written story.
(Spoilers, if you haven’t seen the Christmas Special. Skip the next sentence!)
The pivotal one word answer, and I saw it coming, was “pond”.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me enlighten you. Way back in the late 1970’s, I caught a poorly constructed science fiction show on syndication called “Doctor Who”. The Doctor was a tall, bushy haired man with a long striped scarf and a beautiful companion named “Sarah Jane”. I have written in the past of my family’s encounter with the actress who portrayed Sarah Jane, Elizabeth Sladen, on a train from Cardiff, Wales back to London. This show had a strange appeal to me, but its effects were coarse and its story sometimes contrived. It was but a passing fancy.
A few years back, my daughter, Casey, asked me to watch a new show she had caught on SciFi channel. It was about this doctor and his companion. I rolled my eyes. Old news. Bad show. But, she assured me it was a new show; a revival of the old show. I finally watched the Christmas special featuring David Tennant as the “tenth” doctor. Within about ten minutes, I was mesmerized as alien Santas and spinning Christmas trees of death put all of those memories of a poorly executed show to an end. This was fascinating. And so, began my journey into the world of Doctor Who.
It took some doing, but this last year, I managed to get my son, Sean, and his wife, Jennifer interested in Doctor Who. Within a couple of months they were born again companions of Doctor Who! In fact, their fascination with the show put Casey and me to shame. Soon, Jennifer’s sister joined the ranks and we decided that this Christmas we would have a Doctor Who Christmas party and watch the much anticipated Doctor Who Christmas special.
It was grand fun! Casey’s best friend and, essentially her sister, Sarah, also a Who convert joined in. We decided to dress up as characters. Casey dressed up as the eleventh doctor, the “raggedy doctor” with the red bow tie. Sarah blew us all away showing up as River Song in her denim outfit and holster and revolver (only she ended up with a banana because we all know that “one should never come to a party without a banana”)! And, although I am considerably older and fatter than the original fourth doctor, Tom Baker, I dressed up as the fourth doctor complete with scarf, hat, awful wig and a bag of jelly bellies. I also had the sonic screwdriver of the fourth doctor, thank you.
Now, you may think this is insane. But, Sean, Jennifer, and I had this conversation the other day about the doctor. First, you must realize that Russell Davies, the man who brought back the show is an atheist. And, the most brilliant showrunner who replaced him, Stephen Moffett decries “the spiritual”. So, there is never a reference or a reverence in the show for God. The doctor is a Time Lord, bouncing around the universe in his TARDIS through space and time. But, what is amazing to us is that in spite of the writers of this show having disdain for God, the show is incredibly spiritual. Why? Because, without ever uttering the word, the Doctor is a savior. He saves mankind over and over and over. He values the triumphant power of love. He hates evil.
I find it fascinating that the writers, many of whom are atheists or agnostics, return time and time again to this theme of a savior. It is as if they cannot ever walk away from it. Every good story involves a savior. Every thought involves a transcendent power that rescues us from death and despair. And here is the truth: we cannot get away from the utter and complete realization that we MUST have a savior. No matter how hard the writers struggle to eliminate the divine, they keep showing us our need for a savior! Ah, there is that verse again: “God has put eternity in the hearts of all men.”
Go watch the new version of Doctor Who. You will experience moments of nihilism as the writers insert their worldview. But, watch as inevitably, the darkness gives way to light and the Doctor saves the world again and again. Even in our stark, nihilistic race away from God, we cannot escape the need for a Savior. In fact we RUN to Him!
Now, here are some pictures of our little party. Try your best to erase the image of the fat fourth doctor from you mind before the dawning of a new year! But, we enjoyed eating fish fingers and custard (the fingers were, in reality cookies); jammy dodgers; little Adipose babies; fried bowtie pasta (because as we learned last night AGAIN: bowties are cool!); and finally cookies decorated with little TARDIS images.And, so, a new annual tradition is born and we look forward to next year’s Doctor Who Christmas Party. As Clara would say, “Run, clever boy, run. And, remember!”
I stood at the top of the escalator and looked down into the white tiled corridor below. We were in London and we were about to descend into the “Tube”, the subway system under the streets of that fair city. But, this escalator leading down into the ground was terribly familiar. I closed my eyes and I was back in the theater thirty years before; alone, frightened and sweaty. On the big screen before me was the exact same escalator and corridor I now stood before. On the screen, a deep throated growl echoed around me and a creeping creature appeared at the base of the escalator with glowing eyes.
Later that same week my wife and I decided to walk the mile and half to her mother’s house. It was a pleasant day and we sauntered down the road past houses with nice front yards and spinning mobiles and flowerbeds bursting with color. And then, we passed in front of a densely wooded section. The wind kicked up and the sky was suddenly a deep purple. A storm was coming and the air was filled with the taint of ozone and rain.
We paused to look at the sky and decided to hurry on to her mother’s house before the bottom dropped out. As I stood there I heard a low growl come from behind me. I whirled and peered into the inky shadows of those woods. Something moved in there. Suddenly, I was back in that theater as the creature in the “Tube” attacked and killed an innocent bystander. It was a werewolf from “An American Werewolf in London”.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had a moment like that. We live in a reasonable, rational world. We know that things that go bump in the night are usually loose doors or changes in air pressure or perhaps a raccoon in the trashcan. But, at that moment, all reason left me. I was suddenly in the grip of unrelenting terror; a primal fear of the beast that waits to rip out our throats and tear us apart. I was paralyzed with fear and I KNEW there was a werewolf in the woods watching us. Crazy, huh? You’ve felt that kind of unreasoning fear, haven’t you?
Sherry touched my shoulder and I almost jumped out of my skin. I never told her about the encounter with the “werewolf”, only telling her we needed to hurry along before the rain fell. But, in reality, I wanted to scream my lungs out and run, run, run! Now, back in London. Standing there at the top of the escalator where the wolf in that movie ravaged an innocent man. For a moment, I felt the old fear, cold and clammy. Then, we moved on and for the rest of that trip, I tried to forget about an American werewolf in London.
I mentioned in my last post about my childhood. I had an interview with Greg Mitchell for his blog and it will be posted next week. During that interview, I mentioned my brother’s “hobby” of taxidermy. When I try and understand my unreasonable fear of werewolves and vampires, I can easily trace its origin to my brother’s taxidermy shop. It was filled with “mounted” animals standing, sitting, and hanging on the wall. They had these beady, shiny eyes that seemed to follow you around the room. And, there was all the offal on the floor; bones and muscle and flesh from skinned animals. No wonder I was scarred for life!
In my upcoming book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” I feature not only vampires but a werewolf or two. Just for good measure. I chose to throw a werewolf in because it scared me! I needed that edge while writing. I kept imagining the glowing eyes at the base of that escalator (go back and watch that scene – I dare you. It is terrifying!) and the shadowy beast in the wind tossed woods. That fear inspired my writing.
But, there is another reason I chose to include the werewolf. When the moon is full, a man will change from his rational, reasonable self into a hungry, uncontrolled beast. The next morning, he will awake with no memory of what happened the night before, just a gnawing sense of doom that he caused irreparable harm to someone during his nightly romp. I have a werewolf inside of me. There are events that set it free; moments of moonlight when the beast surges out of control. I tear into the tender throats of my friends and family; and, yes, my enemies. I leave them torn and bleeding on the side of the road. Then, I wake up and wonder why I did what I did. No matter how hard I regret my actions; no matter how passionately I ask for forgiveness the harm is done. Let’s face it. Even after receiving forgiveness for a heinous deed, the relationship is never the same with the offended. Something has changed in the doing of the deed. They look at you in the framework of the beast that they now see within. They stand at the top of the escalator or at the edge of the woods and see the eyes glowing within; the beast waiting hungry and ravenous.
There are lots of words that could describe the beast. In our Christian parlance we have the catchall word of “sin”. The truth is, the best word is our “fallen” nature. We are broken inside; damaged beyond repair because of our severance from the goodness of God. We are bitten by the wolf of rebellion and the wound festers and grows inward and the beast is now full grown; full blown waiting, waiting to be unleashed. In fantasy, there is no cure for the curse of the werewolf. Only the sweet oblivion of death at the expense of a sliver bullet.
But, in reality, we have hope. Our status can be restored. The beast can be tamed and conquered with the help of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He eclipses the moonlight of our soul and sooths the savage beast – tempering it, shushing it, controlling it. I am in need of a Savior. I know this every time I look into the mirror and see the shadow of the wolf.
I hope you will consider purchasing a copy of my new book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. The running theme throughout the story is one of forgiveness. How deeply can we go into the beast before we pass beyond the point of redemption? Is there a point of no return? Are we werewolves lashing out at the moonlight forever doomed to slash and tear at the world around us? Or, is there a sliver bullet that does not kill but redeems? The answers may surprise you.
If you are in the Orlando, Florida area, I will be signing copies of the book at First Baptist Orlando on Saturday, October 27 from 5 PM to 8 PM (after the evening service) and again on Sunday morning, October 28 from 9 AM to Noon (after the morning services). Come by and see me. I promise I won’t bite!
Oh, and if you are in Shreveport, I’m holding a book launch on Friday night October 19, 2012 at the coffee shop, the Well, at Brookwood Baptist Church from 6 to 8 PM. We’ll be giving away an iPad3, a Kindle HD, and a Kindle Backlit in a drawing for those who purchase a book. Come by and see us!
I was asked to write a monologue from Mary’s memories for Brookwood Baptist Church’s event, “Joy”. Now that it has been performed, I want to share it with you on this first day of December as we count down the days until we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
A Visit With Mary
No parent should ever have to bury their child. Ever. When you hold your newborn baby, you never imagine the end. You only think of the beginning. All is fresh and new and tomorrow is forever.
She puts the animal back on the table.
I heard about my new baby from an angel. Really! You don’t believe me, but that is just fine. An angel told me I was going to have a baby boy and even told me what to name him. I couldn’t tell just anybody. They would think I was crazy. After all, I was so young, so innocent and already engaged to be married. Yeah, engaged.
My husband was a good man. Hard working. Dedicated. Loved the Lord. He didn’t tell me about his angel until he was dying. Told me an angel visited him and told him to marry me no matter what. He listened to the angel and he listened to his heart. He loved me. And, I loved him. He was such a good father.
She picks up the animal again and paces as she talks.
There was that time we lost my son. We were traveling and you know how you always have this fear that your child will wander away and get lost. I mean he was 12! And granted a 12 year old should be responsible but for days we thought he was playing with the other guys only to discover we had left him behind in the city! I should have known he would be different. What kind of child comes with the birth announcement of an angel? He wasn’t hanging out with the other guys or hitting on the girls. He was in the church talking to the heavy thinkers; you know, the philosophers, the historians, the theologians and here I’m going to have to be a little proud and not so angry when I tell you that he was more than carrying his own weight. Some of these very intelligent men were astonished at what my son knew.
Mary goes back to the stool and sits down. She places the animal on the table and becomes very thoughtful.
Of course, his brothers and sisters never really liked him that well. They all knew he was different. That’s why that time at the feast I tried to stop them. They thought he was crazy. I tried to explain that their brother was not crazy; he was not delusional; he was special. God had His hand on my son but they insisted on going and the words they spoke about their brother! I can’t tell you how many times since then they wished they could take those words back. When you’ve said something so hurtful to someone you love and then they die . . . well, you can never find peace again.
Mary suddenly grows very proud of her son and motions to the table.
I have this table, right here, see? It is small and not exactly perfect but my son built this for me right after he turned thirteen. And, this stool I’m sitting on he made when he turned twenty. But, all of his glorious skill with working with wood ended when he turned thirty. He stopped shaping the hearts of trees and began to shape the hearts of men.
My husband once told me that a man should be happy if he has raised someone smarter than himself or more successful than himself. He never had the opportunity to here our son speak. Such words! I once watched him carving a limb — an old, gnarled piece of driftwood from the sea of Galilee.
He started out just looking at it and studying it. And then, he began to cut away the dead twigs and strip away the rotten flesh. And, then he exposed the beautiful swirling pattern of the heart of the wood. He polished it and sanded it and coated it with oil and wax until the limb became a beautiful walking stick for my father. How did he see what was inside that broken, gnarled and discarded piece of wood? Only the Lord could show him the potential of what lay inside. He is that way with words. He sees into the hearts and minds of men and women and the words that cut to the quick; that expose the hurt; that sooth the pain; that heal the wound; or that prick the recalcitrant heart and those words are sharper than a two edged sword. He is the word. Yes, the very word of God.
And, yes, it would be His words that brought about his downfall. The wrong words were spoken by his brothers and they hurt him. But, the right words were spoken by my son and they killed him.
Mary looks up as if looking at Christ on the cross and hugs herself in pain.
I was there when he hung on the tree — irony of ironies he should die on the very wood he spent his life shaping. My heart was broken and I remembered the first night I held him; cold, wet; crying and hungry as angels filled the night and shepherds bowed at our feet and the skies sang with a thousand hosannas.
She unfolds her arms and gestures to the “cross”.
But, where were they now? Where were the angels as he bled on the cross? Where were the lowly shepherds who fell at his feet? Where were the songs of praise and triumph?
They were gone. The angels, like his heavenly Father, turned their backs to him in his hour of greatest need. The shepherds did not bow at his feet but hurled insults and bitter hatred and cried “Crucify Him.” And the songs of praise were replaced with a silence so profound, so deep it covered the earth with its sorrow.
Mary stumbles back in pain and sorrow and sits roughly on the stool. She mimes the action of them placing Chris in her lap. As she talks, she touches the wounds on his head, touches the wound in his side, touches the wounds on his hands.
I held him in my lap just as I had as a baby. He was cold; wet; but he no longer cried and he no longer hungered. His lifeless body sucked the very life out of the universe; the creator born of my womb; drinking from my body now limp and helpless in my arms. God had been born. God had died. And, I had been the bookends of His life.
Mary relaxes and turns back to the table. She picks up the carved animal again.
I am waiting now. Waiting for a great and glorious reunion. I was at the empty tomb! I saw my Son reborn; in new flesh still marred with the scars of his atonement. He walked among us for days and then bid us goodbye to become one with his Father. I miss him greatly whenever I touch this table or hear this stool scrape across the stones.
She closes her eyes, holds the toy animal to her face and inhales as if remembering. She opens her eyes and begins to talk.
Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of Him out of the corner of my eye or smell his fragrance on a chance breeze for His is the breath of life; His is the everlasting water; His is the Life eternal to give to us all. I have had a good life. I have had a life no mother could ever have imagined. It all started with an angel visit and it will end with my Son coming for me. He will welcome me into His arms only I will not embrace Him.
Mary falls to her knees and kneels as if at the feet of Christ, looking up in wonder.
No, I will fall at His feet in worship and praise for my son who was born to die, died so that we might liver forever!