How To Find Eric’s Writing

I love blogging, preaching, and storytelling, but fiction writing has been my first love.

As mentioned in a previous blog, here is my first novel:

Calling this a “Steampunk” novel would be selling it short.  It has some of the trappings of that genre, however it’s a bit more than that.  Yes, there’s the “What if” of steampunk: what if the Victorian world turned to steam power instead of combustion science, what if Charles Babbage’s early computer was embraced and beget a 19th century digital age, what if the roles of women were more blended with men, etc…

https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/exhaust-from-the-tin-woods-1

However, the shift from this world comes with the question: “What if Western Canada caught up with all of these changes?”

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/exhaust-from-the-tin-woods-eric-j-kregel/1128255151?ean=9781988327426

It is an adventure novel, a meditation on science, and a quirky romance.  Check it out.

This novel is part of a greater network called InUPress.  Here’s my author’s page:

https://inupress.ca/store/Eric-J-Kregels-writings-c23290277

InUPress publishes mostly science fiction and fantasy.  Along with my writings, it features the work of Rusty Knight/Kenneth Shumaker.  You can check out Book 1 of his Laret series:

https://inupress.ca/inupress-books/larret-army-rising-souls/

I love the fantasy world of Laret.  Shumaker does a great job of world building, giving the world lore and substance and weight.  As well, he has written some really well-rounded characters (Side note: G is my favourite).  If you want to take a break from the mainstream and sample this underground publishing, “Laret’s Army” would be a good place to start.

If you want to check out Shumaker on his Virily page, here it is:

https://virily.com

And if you want to check out InUPress, get involved, submit feedback, and pick up some good stories, follow this link:

https://inupress.ca

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He Never Would: Doctor Who Reads Wendell Berry

 

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Years ago, I got into the practice of telling bedtime stories to my daughterinvolving the White Princess.  The Princess was a bit of “She-ra” mixed with Robin Hood and Barbie.  She was commanded by her world’s “One, True King” to overthrow the present ruler Swineaird.  White Princess was given a simple rule for her and her rebellion to follow: no one gets hurt.

This began as a simple idea, intended for a preschooler; however, for years, this became a strong axiom for the bedtime stories.

Can we solve problems without violence?  Or can we solve some problems without violence, but then there are special problems where violence is the only and sensible solution?  And if there are two categories of problems/solutions, is it possible that we-as-Earthlings can get the two categories mixed up?  Could we apply violence in a category where other solutions can be applied, making the problems worseand prolonged?

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Writer Wendell Berry would argue that violence is the norm, so to suggest that there are other options on the table stretches beyond Western Civilization’s imagination.

In his writing, he wouldn’t limit violence to just the military or crimes committed by individuals, but ecological violence (such as coal mining that destroys mountains, forests, rivers, and animal life).

In his essay “The Commerce of Violence”, Berry paints a picture of the tit for tat of violence, “It is only another transaction in the commerce of violence: the unending, the not foreseeably endable, exchange of an eye for an eye, with customary justifications on every side, in which we fully participate; and beyond that, it is our willingness to destroy anything, any place, or anybody standing between us and whatever we are “manifestly destined” to have.”[1]

According to Berry, violence can soak into how we farm, how we trade, how we see the Earth, and how we see problems/solutions.

My daughter’s evening bedtime routine becomes a limit because one must hurt another to get what they want, what they desire.

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This thinking reduces humanity to the anti-Scrooge: instead of endeavoring to keep Christmas every day of the year, which was Dickens’shappy ending to “A Christmas Carol”, we seek to keep Black Friday every day.  Yes,Black Friday: the day after we celebrate our gratitude of Thanksgiving, we claw and fight and mob our ways to buy cheaper possessions because…we simply we want them.

If violence becomes how we see the world, then it will be our only option for problems/solutions.  Berry cites the bombings of the Boston Marathon that happened a few years ago:

“It is not possible for us to reduce the value of life, including human life, to nothing only to suit our own convenience or our own perceived need. By making this reduction for ourselves, we make it for everybody and anybody, even for our enemies, even for the maniacs whose enemies are schoolchildren or spectators at as marathon.”[2]

Isn’t there a better way to imagine problems/solutions?

Yes. Have you ever watched Doctor Who?

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Doctor Who tells the story of a powerful being (Time Lord) who travels through time and space, solving other worlds’ problems.  His experiences are not in a safe vacuum, an ivory tower; rather, the stories exist in the heart of conflict and violence.

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Most episodes in the original series ended in cliffhangers, where either the Doctor’s life, or the life of one of his companions, was being threatened.  In the 1970’s –the show’s heyday – British morals campaigner Mary Whitehouse sought to cancel Doctor Who because she felt it was too violent.[3]

So, it’s a show where everyone else is violent but the Doctor.  This is important because his/her innocence isn’t based upon avoiding conflict but leaping into its centre.  And how does the Doctor resolve conflict? The Doctor and his companions’ solution:

  • He threatened his attacker with a deadly Jelly Baby in “The Face of Evil”. Actually, it wasn’t poisoned just a Jelly Baby.
  • Turlough, one of the Doctor’s companions, threatened monsters with a hat rack in “Planet of Fire”.Again, it was just a hat rack.
  • In “Partners in Crime”, a new species emerged and he released them into the cosmos, to colonize another world far from harming the Earth.
  • In “Full Circle”, he helped a violent group of humans leave a hostile planet, sparing their lives and the world they settled on. He gave them basically what everyone needed.
  • In “Survival”, the Doctor stopped his enemy, The Master, from exploiting an alien race and enslaving a group of humans. He did so without violence.  And it worked.

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Perhaps the most vivid example the Doctor gives usis in “The Doctor’s Daughter”.

In this episode, the Doctor instantly gains a 20-something daughter (long story).  She is killed in conflict between two warring people groups.  The Doctor, fresh from grieving her death, is in a position where he could end the life of his daughter’s murderer. He doesn’t.  Instead, he drops the weapon and tells the two people groups:

“I never would… have you got that? I. Never. Would. When you start this new world… this world of human and Hath … remember that! Make the foundation of this society a man who never would!’

The Doctor provides us with a powerful tool: how can we imagine solutions that work in harmony with our enemies – with those who “done us wrong”?  It also requires a whole lot of self-denial: Can I do what is right instead of exploit my world in order to get what I want?  Finally, with examples and stories flooding our heads with non-violent solutions, it helps us see the two categories more clearly: we see that most solutions need not exist in the “violence only” category.

Sherman Alexie says, “When you resort to violence to prove a point, you’ve just experienced a profound failure of imagination.”[4]  Violence denies imagination, which is at the core of what makes us human.  Whether it is military, ecological, or relational violence, we stop beinga human who has been designed –as the Bible in Genesis suggests –to work with our world and take care of it.

Journalist Thomas L. Friedman, as well as Wendell Berry, wrote about the Boston Marathon bombing. Friedman said heroism wasn’t found in those who looked for the villains of the bombing to pay an eye for an eye;no, the heroes of that moment were the ones who ran towards the blast to help, to save.  This was before any “all-clear” statements were made and more explosions could have come.

Human life, at that moment, was at its most precious.

The lesson“I never would”is the lesson we can learn from an alien, from one who decides to step outside of the usual, common cycles of violence.

 

 

 

 

[1]Berry, Wendell.  Our Own World, Pg. 17, Counterpoint: Berkeley, 2015.

[2]IBED.

[3]https://drwhointerviews.wordpress.com/category/mary-whitehouse/

[4]Alexie, Sherman.  The Toughest Indian in the World.  Grove Press: 2001.

Eric Just Got Published: Children of Time

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I kind of kept this a secret for a while, but it’s out now and I can share the news: I am published!  Wa-hoo!

“Children of Time: the Companions of Doctor Who” is anthology of writings from all of the companions who followed the Doctor through Time and Space.  This has been a combination of my love for writing, reflecting, and Doctor Who.   The anthology is a combination of many voices, styles, and insights.

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I took on an obscure character Amy, who can be found in the audio adventures from Big Finish Productions in their “Key to Time” trilogy.  She later appears in the spin-off series “Graceless”.   In my small offering, I explore the notion of community and identity.

https://www.amazon.com/Children-Time-Companions-Doctor-Who/dp/1987715985/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1526487098&sr=8-14&keywords=children+of+time&linkCode=sl1&tag=wh036-20&linkId=b7c564626d93015dae88496898da6dce

This anthology is a charity for the animal charity “Furkids” which is a ethical and compassionate take on animal sheltering and rescues.   Here’s their link:

https://furkids.org

To read the publisher’s official press release, follow this link:

https://kozmicpress.com

Please, check it out!

You Don’t Get to Pick Your Neighbour

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Way back, a church I worked with hosted a free skate night at the local rink for New Year’s Eve.

I took my oldest daughter out on the ice, during the first hour.  As I skated with the meager, first hour crowd on the ice, there was a boy wildly skating.  He cut us off twice and almost caused my daughter-who was learning how to skate- to almost fall.

He then took some of the chairs used for kids to learn how to maintain balance and would throw them across the ice.  He did this for his amusement, yet it almost struck one of the other skaters.

I pulled him aside to tell him to stop.  He wasn’t listening.  Instead, the boy pointed to the speakers in the rink and complained, “This is lousy music. I’ve got better music.  Can we play my music?”  I politely chuckled and just kept repeating myself: be careful on the ice.

Fifteen minutes later, my daughter was tired and wanted to do something else. We skated off the ice and grabbed a bench to get out of our skates.

The boy skated up to us and crashed into the seat next to mine.  He plopped both of his skates on my lap, wet with ice. “Untie my skates,” he ordered.

Before I reacted, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: “You’re not going to pick who you will witness to.

I held back whatever rant I was going to deliver.  Instead, I untied his skates.

I was taking too long.  “You’re new at this, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I am,” I said.

His skates untied, the boy ran off to the exit.  He left in the middle of our evening program for his next adventure.

G.K. Chesteron writes: ““We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbour.”

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I like this quote because it explains a great theological truth that hospitality is open to whoever crosses our path.  This includes our neighbour at the office, the immigrant who sits with us on the LRT, the fellow who shows up to our church needing a place to sleep, or our actual next door neighbour…we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31).

When we’re living separate from God’s story and in our own tales of adventure (where we are the main characters, not God), there’s a desire to take control of the cast of characters.  We like stacking the deck, putting all of the cards advantageous only to us in our hand.  Treating people like cards, we want to pick who is our neighbour.

We like people like us because they remind us of, well, us.  “You must be doing something right because you act just like me!” we think.

We want to get to choose who is our neighbour and maintain a tight control on our own narrative.

And we then miss being a part of God’s story.

Part of joining God in His story is to be open to letting Him pick who will be in it.  When we run into one of the character He’s made, we must ask, “How do I serve/love/accept/enjoy/bless this new character?”

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It’s hard, I know.  This is one of the reasons why God’s story seems mysterious and why it’s so easy to fall into our own tales.  And yet, God’s story is worth the fight to be a part of because we know how well it ends. It ends really, really happy (See Revelations).

Part of the glory of that ending can be experienced now.

How? Little by little, we seek to love and include those people who are right in front of us.

Christian, How Healthy is Your Marriage to the Bible?

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Let’s say you had a friend from High School who you haven’t seen in years.  You remember him as a wild, impulsive type who lived without fear and, at times, without any common sense.  He won every argument, hardly ever admitted he was wrong, and took control of most situations that fell into his lap.

He then calls you, now in his mid-forties.  He arranged for you and he and his wife and your spouse all to get together for dinner.

The moment you see him, you feel that he hardly has changed: only now married with 5 kids.   His wife seldom speaks and when she does, it’s only to affirm what your friend is saying.

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All of his stories involve him as the hero and his family is nowhere near the adventure. He goes on hunting trips, impulsively, by himself and will leave his family behind.  He makes decisions for the family and then informs his wife what they are doing.  She is at home, raises the kids, and takes care of things.  She makes him his lunch in the morning, to which he sometimes eats if he doesn’t go out with a client (and then he tells you he throws away her lunch).   He’s proud of every story he tells, expecting his wife to silently nod in his triumph.

Your spouse, on car ride home, describes him accurately, “He isn’t really a husband or a father, just married to a wife who is a single mother of 5 kids.”

He talks about his independence from her, however you don’t catch any spite.

Quite the opposite.  He praises her constantly.  His favourite expression (used often) is “Ain’t she great?”   He boasts that he got into a fist fight with a co-worker once because he disrespected her.  He talks often about her wisdom and beauty and amazing abilities to keep his home in order.  She is a perfect angel, he tells you.  And yet…you get the sense they don’t really talk to each other.

At the end of the night, he seems to be exactly the same man he was in High School…only married.  And when you look into his eyes past the bravado and the bluster, you catch a sense of loneliness.  “Those who must be kings don’t have many in their courts,” the old proverb suggests and his marriage matches this saying.

After your night out with this friend, you receive a call from another High School chum.  This one, you tell your spouse, is a main character of all of the stories in High School you don’t tell your children. This second friend…was real trouble.

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You- quite reluctantly- agree to meet him and his wife, along with your spouse at the same restaurant.  The difference between the first friend and the second friend is night/day.

You still see the sparkle in your second friend’s eye that belongs to a teenager, but it now fits within the appropriate context of someone in their mid-forties.

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The spouse is an active participant in the dinner, swapping stories and sharing ideas.  Your second friend talks about their kids, their vacation, and his career with the suggestion that his wife plays an active part in everything he does.   She doesn’t just accompany him, but speaks up, contributes, shapes, and even guides a lot of his decisions.  The family, from everything you can gather, is one unit, shuffling from drama to drama.

He is a kind man, you figure, and his love for his wife is noted most by how open he is to her and her function in his life.  He is not the same man as he was in High School.   Then again, he’s become much more of who he was then because- as you say to your spouse on the way home from the dinner.   He just became “more of more of himself” because of his marriage.

His marriage has changed him…for the better.

This little thought exercise is not my own, rather it is borrowed (with respect) from James F. McGrath.   You can follow the link here:

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2018/04/not-loving-the-bible.html

 

However, let’s take this idea and apply to how Christians treat their Bible. The first fellow is an example of “Biblical Christians” who love the Word of God, want it respected, have broken friendships with people who disagreed with them, and have destroyed people’s lives without hesitation because they were “only doing what God told them to do.”

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It’s like a husband who places his wife upon a pedestal, but yet does everything possible not to listen to her, not to let her perspective guide his steps, and is someone stridently committed to the notion of never changing.

When the Bible is preached in their church, they tune it out because they believe they’ve heard it all before.  If there is a new interpretation, they get angry and mad and use all sorts of names to defend their first and original view of that specific text.  They love podcasts and sermons and books about the Bible, but only if these teachings submit their pedestal placed, very distant marriage to the Bible.

Then there’s the other marriage, about the fellow who flung himself at his marriage.  His wife is a companion-certainly- but she’s much more than that.  She guides and directs and speaks up and challenges, infusing herself into his life.  This is a marriage of dynamic intimacy: the more he listens and shares with his wife, the more he grows.

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The second spouse reminds us of the process one goes allowing the Bible change them from the inside-out.

See:

https://ericjkregel.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/the-bible-the-book-that-set-fire-to-the-woods/

Now, of course, this is a metaphor and all truth gets condensed when you “go story”.  In a marriage between two equals, there is give and take; with the Word of God, there is an exchange but it exists for the purpose of changing the reader (not the reader changing the text).  Certainly, the Bible can’t do things you and I can do (Ex. we can feed the homeless, the Bible can only inspire such activities, etc.)- but it’s not an equal transaction.  It’s also not a complimentary relationship.   The Bible, for the Christian, is the revealed Word of God- a status you or I could never aspire towards.  So my recommendation is not to take this metaphor TOO far other than it’s an image of love and that’s about it.

In recent times, we’ve been seeing those who espouse a great love for the Bible yet the Bible doesn’t match their politics, positions, or postings.  The confusion is simple, “If you’ve been a Christian for so long, why are you at odds with the Bible’s position on the poor/immigrants/women/justice/integrity/grace/etc…?”

My question in dealing with this tension is to ask, “How healthy is their marriage to the Bible?”   Is the Bible placed on a pedestal, but so distant and removed that it no longer changes them?  Or is it an active partner, shaping their steps and ways?  Is it a token, an emblem, and only a totem?  Or is it something that works, directs, convicts, and changes?

 

The Christian Church as An Open Crowd Festival.

Exploitation or harmony?

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(I promise, I will mention Wendell Berry at some point in this blog.).

Working with God and with the neighborhood around the church in harmony is an idea expressed through the organization Fusion International, a para-church ministry seeking to provide open crowd street festivals around the world in order to bring the churched and the secular together.

Matt Garvin-who worked for a spell with this organization wrote the book 6 Radical Decisions, states:

“It may be that God is calling you to make a significant life altering decision because you know that the mission he has for you requires it, in the same way that my father (Mal Garvin, founder of Fusion Ministries) did.  More often than not, though, it will simply be a matter of seeing that God already has you in the place where he has called you to be an agent of His Kingdom.  The circumstances of your life have brought you to this place and to this moment and your job is to accept the ‘Calcutta’ that is right in front of you.  This does not mean you are called to a smaller, easier task than someone who senses their mission means major change, far from it. Your task is not business as usual, it is to see what the glory of God requires of you in that setting, name and accept the mission and begin.”[1]

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Garvin asserts, “In focusing primarily on the congregation, and losing sight of the other forms of life, we have reduced our understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ….More and more people are finding their ministry outside the context of the Sunday service or mid-week small groups.”[2]  This brings up a crucial weakness: most Christians, because of the absolute separation between the sacred and the common, have little imagination for church outside of foreordained religious structures.

Again, exploitation or harmony?  Is the church existing to absorb the community for the purpose of its institutional blessing (i.e., big numbers, big buildings, lots of tithing, etc.) or does it seek to invest in the land around it so that those may be blessed by God? The solution proposed is that the church works in harmony with the mission of God already at work in the immediate community surrounding the church.

[1]Garvin, Matt. 6 Radical Decisions.  (London: Fusion Trading UK Limited, 2012), 19, 53.

[2]Garvin, 6 Radical Decisions,22. 

 

 

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A month before our town’s street festival, Fusion International ran a daylong training at our church.   We had churches, several community groups, and a mix of our youth group along with senior citizens.  At the beginning, we all sat in our little groups like teenaged gangs from “The West Side Story.”  The presenters shared the idea that our festival must be an “open crowd”.

In 6 Radical Decisions, Garvin describes this concept:

“A normal approach to ministry or social work is to look for people with a problem that you can help them solve.  Even if that problem is the absence of a relationship with Jesus Christ, this approach is inherently comes from a point of view, ‘I’m okay but you’re not ok and if you listen to me I will make you ok.’…instead of seeing people as clients, outsiders are invited inside.”[1]

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The goal of the “open crowd” is to invite those from the outside to the inside, to the core of the festival.  So the layout of the festival is different: everything is in circles, with a variety of points of entry.  People can come from the south, the north, from the street, or from the neighborhoods. There would be greeters to always invite people deeper into the festival.  Visitors could stand on the outside, listening to our live music; they could come deeper, enjoying the food and games given to them for free from booths run by churches, community groups, and local businesses; or they could get to the heart of the festival, the circle of games.

Every festival has a heart: making money, getting people to sign-up for something, promoting a commercial idea.  Ours was to be simple: kids playing games together. When this vision was pitched, we agreed intellectually.  Our festival had to be founded on the notion everyone can play, everyone was invited. But our seating suggested the groups, clichés, and beliefs that shape our lives.

Then we played games, training for the festival. We were divided up: young and old, community and churched.  We then worked together to learn the games and spend a few hours doing it.   At the last gathering, no one sat with their little clichés: were all together, mixed up and separated.

In the church, we’ve created a false dichotomy that essentially denies the incarnation: a separation between that which is Christian and secular.   Within the four walls of the church are contained certain “Christian merchandise” (i.e., books, music, movies), and certain practices (i.e., festivals, concerts, retreats).  Within the church we have a holier ground; conversely, wherever these self-proclaimed holy items are not present, that is where it is worldly, devoid of God’s Spirit, and “lost.” Thus, we enforce the clichés that separate the church from the world.  We become neither of the world nor in the world.  This brings up a crucial weakness: most Christians, because of the absolute separation between the sacred and the common, have little imagination for church outside of our foreordained religious structures.  What if someone experiences a genuine fellowship experience at a book club?  Experiences a worshipful experience at a Sigur Rós rock concert?  Or hears the Word of God in a subway?  The church is reduced to clichés, margins, and boxes as to what is and isn’t the context of ministry.

But what if the church resembled more of an open crowd? A place where divisions, castes, and separations melted away in the presence of God’s Kingdom?

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This is an assertion beyond demographically driven churches, affinity group approaches, or, as is often the case with mega-churches, an engineered image or concept of who is welcomed to the church.  This type of thinking has shaped worship, creating a style that is based upon a rigid culture (e.g., cowboy style worship, urban cuban contemporary worship, etc.).  It also has sent a subtle message: if you fit this image, then you must be like us (conversely, if you don’t fit this image, stay out!).

A church that resembles an open crowd is constantly inviting those from the immediate neighbourhood inside the deepest circles.  The church always asks, always investigates what culture, expressions, and ideas of those who come in and then seeks to find Christ embodied in their worlds. Anyone is welcomed into the open crowd. If there must be a central culture or image of the church, then it is one of diversification that matches the neighbourhood.  Most North American neighborhoods are diverse ethnically, culturally, and socially so why must the church seek to set itself a part by being rigid, monolithic, and static…regarding song choice!

“But I can’t be all things to all people!” is the cry against diversity, yet this a direct quote from Paul who wanted to be all things to all people. Again, we go back to Wendell Berry.  What is our idea of God?  Is He only concerned with certain things, respective of only clichés and brand names?  Is He only in Heaven?  Or is He crossing over boundaries, invading all neighbourhoods and people groups?

“If God was not in the world, then obviously the world was a thing of inferior importance, or of no importance at all.  Those who were disposed to exploit it were thus free to do so.  And this split in public attitudes was inevitably mirrored in the lives of individuals: a man could aspire to heave with his mind and his heart while destroying the earth, and his fellow men, with his hands. The human or earthly problem has always been one of behavior, or morality: how should a man live in this world? Institutional Christianity has usually tended to give a non-answer to this question: He should live for the next world.  Which completely ignores the fact that the here is antecedent to the hereafter, and that, indeed, the Gospels would seem to make one’s fate in the hereafter dependent on one’s behaviour here.”[2]

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Exploitation or harmony?  The Gospel is a message for the open crowd, seeking to always bring in the outside neighborhood deeper and deeper into the festival of His Kingdom. And wouldn’t that be the abiding image of the “celebration times” of our Sunday morning- an open crowd festival?

Through imagination and inclusion and diversity and collaboration and experimentations, this virtue could transform our congregations.

 

[1]Garvin, 6 Radical Decisions, 101.

[2]Berry, Wendell Imagination of Place, 4-5.

Writers Never Throw Anything Away 2: A Knight’s Tale

In the Fall of 1999, I wrote my first novel “The Kingdom Ever-After”.   The elation from completing this beast- as far as my joys as a writer- could never be matched.

I finished it in a resort in Tijuana, Mexico.   I hitched a ride with some Point Loma University students getting ready for a mission trip.   While they were discussing VBS and mission strategies, I was in the back room on my “Apple 1020” slaying dragons and winding up a novel.

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This beast of a thing- about 600 pages worth- has never seen the light of day.  Only me and my wife has ever seen this story.  It’s a bit rough and no longer fits a lot of how I write, so I have given up trying to get it published.

But a writer never throws anything away.

Here’s a fragment.  The set-up is an origin story of Sir Bennet, a fiercely loyal knight who was assigned an impossible task of defeating an unbeatable foe.   He lives in a land of magic and has a silver right arm.  This is how he lost his arm, which would be replaced by a magic one (a story for another time).

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Enjoy!

          One moment, Sir Bennet was smiling, standing, and enjoying life without injury.  The next moment, within a hiccup of time, a foul shriek split through the roar of the waterfall and bid all senses to bathe in it’s presence.   

             A gnarled, black-yellowed Gryphon tore through the dappled green canopy of the woods.  It’s eyes, soaked in it’s own blood, scanned the basin and set it’s focus on Sir Bennet.   It’s black muscles, rippling with yellow veins and fluttering tissue, swung taught as it flapped it’s wings in it’s descent.  Within a swoop and a roar, it landed on a rock clawing it’s way out of the water.  

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            Sir Bennet charged to the beach and sand closest to the demon bird.   It stood erect, about fourteen feet tall.  It’s head was tilted, like that of a drunken man.   It’s teeth a drooled orange foam.

             “So, what parts do you come from, demon?”, Sir Bennet called out, drawing his sword.

            “From the ruins of Maldor.   Yourself?”, the Gryphon answered.

            “From the Vald, the center of the 12 Kingdoms.”

            “Why do you journey so far north?”

            “We come in peace to bring allegiance in the northeastern territories.  The Yellow Kingdom would wish all of us as slaves and our lands free for their plunder.”

            “I know nothing about kingdoms or territories.  My philosophies seem crooked to most men, for I live beyond the thinking of mere, mortal men.   Yet we agree in one thing: the murder for the sake of one’s own survival.   I live by this and this alone.  I am cursed with speech and bound by oath to engage in dialogue with all of my victims before I attack.  It is my honor.”

            This was true.  Gryphon were bound, just as they were bound to both breadth and sleep, to engage in a philosophical discourse before they attacked an oppenant.  To them, it was a way to accumulate honor and gain power. If the creature denied a philosophical discourse, the Gryphon just attacked, regretfully, and defeated it’s opponent without honor. 

            “Well, you’ll find there is no honor greater than those who defend the Green Queen’s glory.”

            “Good.   So, what will we discuss before we wrestle in death’s embrace?”

            “Are you given much to ethics?”

            “Afraid not.   It’s not my particular field of study.”

            “What is?”

            “Epistemology”, declared the Gryphon, “The study of knowing.”

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            “Oh, then let’s discourse.   Shall we take the classic debate?”

            “How do we know we’re dreaming and that what we think is real just a series of self-created stimulus or is there such a thing a objective reality?”

            “Yes.”

            “Right.   I’ll take the grounds that are a little more existential.   I’m all in favor of assuming that life is a dream and that our views of reality are self-generated.”

            “I disagree.  Within every human or inhuman soul, I believe, is a desire for narscicisum.”

            “A love of oneself?   I suppose you believe that is wrong.”

            “Oh, it is.   A self-love obscures one’s devotion to the authorities and powers above yourself. The Queen needs a subservient knight and a warrior who’ll carry out her wishes without question.   Her views, dreams, and plans I may not know about nor agree with, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I obey and my obedience empowers those above me and, through that empowerment, they become wiser and richer and better.   Self-love, caring only for oneself and basing all decisions upon this love, is, frightfully, within all of us.”

            “I agree.   We all want ourselves to survive for our own self-preservation because our own loss will be felt, by us, the most.”

            “Exactly.  So if life was a dream, generated by myself, it would not include altruism as the chief goal of every man.”

            “Why not?”

            “It smacks in the face of my love for me.   If I was creating my own reality, I would be the hero and the God, able to accomplish anything and all of the rules, laws, and ethics would be based around me being able to have and do and say anything.   However, life is not like that.   Instead, I’m on a beach talking to a Gryphon who I must fight and lay down my life in order to protect my men.   The correct and moral thing to do, in this cosmos that is what I call reality, is the most altruistic.   If I was creating my own world, I wouldn’t have the rules to work like that.”

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            “Granted, life is full of undesirable outcomes and possibilities representing an equally undesirable moral cosmos.   However, there is a flaw in your argument.  You have made the unqualified assumption that altruism is a qualified virtue-it is not.   Rather, it is a value only by the value you’ve ascribed to it.”

            “Meaning?”

            “You laying down your life is honorable only because you have ascribed value to this action.   Whereas if I was dialoguing with a Son of Fenrest, he would see the option of his self-sacrifice as absurd.”

            “But that doesn’t work.  A Son of Fenrest is not part of a hierarchy, an order that demands obedience from it’s members and the lives of it’s warriors.   It’s a band of cut-throats.  That’s like a man born blind demanding that there is no such thing as color because he’s never experienced it.”

            “Yet, for his case, he has never seen color and, therefore, it doesn’t exist for him.”

            “Perception and interpretation is not the final authority on whether or not something exists or not.”

            “Why not?   That’s the whole crux of my argument.   Based upon my argument, I make the assumption that my perception of dreams and reality are one and the same.  Therefore, I perceive reality as a dream and a dream as a reality.   I ascribe a set of values to one and another set of values to the other.   As a result, my view of reality is based upon my set of values.”

            There was a silence.   Sir Bent’s men started to swim towards the perched Gryphon exchanging ideas with their general.   “I see we are at an impass.”

            “A noble goal for a good dialogue.”

            “For some dialogues, yes.”   Sir Bennet drew his sword.   “I quite enjoyed our chat.  It’s rare to find such intellectual stimulation out on the field.”

            “I quite agree.   You are well informed, soldier.  A bit orthodox, but informed.”

            “Thank-you.  That means a lot, coming from a learned for like yourself.”

            They both straightened themselves out and got into their battle stance.  Sir Bennent’s men began to swim closer. 

             The Gryphon shrieked with a blare that vibrated the trees, rocks, and bones of everything in the basin.   Sir Bennet gave a pronounced yawp and leaped onto the Gryphon.

            He landed on it’s belly, pulling himself up to it’s neck by grasping at it’s thick, weed like feathers.  He threw himself back and then lunged his sword into the base of its neck.  

            The Gryphon recoiled in pain.   It screamed with a gargling of it’s blood.   Sir Bennet yanked out the sword and began to hack at it like he would hack at a tree trunk.  The Gryphon snapped back into battle, lunging it’s beak at Sir Bennet.   As quick as a snake’s strike, the Gryphon had plucked off Sir Bent’s right arm.  

            His men, at first, thought that the Gryphon had grabbed a river log or a tree branch.   But the blood soon spit out of his wounds.   Sir Bent’s side became a second waterfall, not of river water but of human blood.   He quickly secured himself with his left hand and pulled himself up to the creature’s neck.   He has lost his sword in his right arm, so he was without a weapon.   However, instinct took over and he began to gnaw with his own teeth at the Gryphon’s neck.

            The Gryphon howled.   Sir Bennet tore deeper with his teeth.   More blood and gore rumbled out of the wounds.   The Gryphon began to slow down in its fury.   Sir Bennet began to chew as if he was in a pastry eating contest.  Within a few more moments, the Gryphon fell backwards in defeat and death.     Sir Bennet fell in the water with the beast.

            His men were silent.  Markham stood with his mouth wide enough to catch horse flies.   Silence.

            Sir Bennet emerged from the water, thundering from the depths like a Kracken.  His face was pale, his eyes burned, his body bloody, and arm missing.   He inhaled life.   Opened his eyes.   Silence froze the men.

            His voice charged, “Gentlemen, rest time is over!   Send a surgeon to sew up my arm!   We pack up in a half an hour!”

            Pressure was applied, he was bathed in cold water, and the bleeding stopped after enough herbs and medication was treated.   His arm was not found, Sir Bennet deemed, “That foul demon swallowed it just to get the best of me!”    After about a half an hour, the hole where his arm once had been was sewn up and Sir Bennet was put on his horse.   Dried blood was still caked on his face and his shirt was in ribbons.

            But they continued their journey.  

            Markham tried to urge Sir Bennet to turn back, “Look, your in no position to ride. You’re hurt and you’ve lost blood.  The Queen will understand, I think, if we had to go back….”

            “Look”, Sir Bennet barked, wincing from his pain, “I’m in every position to ride.  I am the Queen’s hands, eyes, and sword. It is my place, despite my present discomforts, to carry out Her will.”

            “You just had your arm gnawed off!”

            “What if I lost my ear?   Or an eye?  Would I be shirking my responsibilities then?   A toe? What if I lost a toe on the trip?  I’d be a coward, a self-interested goat to give up on the Queen’s errand.   Well, as luck would have it, I lost my whole right arm.   And the errand still remains.   Look, orders are only as good as when they are followed.   I must follow the Queen’s wishes.”

            “To the death?”

            “Oh, that’s where her orders begin.”   His eyes rattled in his fire.

            They continued on their journey.

 

Blog 100! My Wendell Berry Trees

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Wendell Berry says in the beginning of his book “The Art of Loading Brush” that his strongest knack as a writer is in repeating himself. I can laugh at this until I consider this is my 100thpost and, reading my previous posts, I have re-mentioned a few things.  Or a few things, many times.

Berry goes over ideas he has repeated throughout his career in writing:

“I offer the following definition or characterization of agrarianism as I understand it:

1) An elated, loving interest in the use and care of the land, and in all the details of the good husbandry of plants and animals.

2) An informed and conscientious submission to nature, or to Nature, and her laws of conservation, frugality, fullness or completeness and diversity.

3) The wish, the felt need, to have and to belong to a place of one’s own as the only secure source of sustenance and independence….

4) From that to a persuasion in favor of economic democracy, a preference for enough over too much.

5) Fear and contempt of waste of every kind and its ultimate consequence in land exhaustion. Waste is understood as human folly, an insult to nature, a sin against the given world and its life.

6) From that to a preference for saving rather than spending as the basis of the economy of a household or a government.

7) An assumption of the need for a subsistence or household economy, so as to live so far as possible from one’s place.

8) An acknowledged need for neighbors and a willingness to be a neighbor.This comes from proof by experience that no person or family or place  can live alone.

9) A living sense of the need for continuity of family and community life in place, which is to say the need for the survival of local culture and thus of the safekeeping of local memory and local nature.

10) Respect for work and (as self-respect) for good work. This implies an understanding of one’s life’s work as a vocation and a privilege, as opposed to a “job”.

11) A lively suspicion of anything new.This contradicts the ethos of consumerism and the cult of celebrity. It is not inherently cranky or unreasonable.”[1]

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This is Berry’s list.  I have my own; I have faith you have yours as well.

It’s a fantastic exercise. In Berry’s list, I can see people like Jayber and Hattie, characters in his novels, along with memories of his past essays and poems. When a young person does this kind of list, it’s a Declaration of War; when an older writer submits this list to their audience, it’s a cheat sheet.  A glorious cheat sheet, mind you.

And it reminds you why reading and writing and sharing ideas through words is so human, so important, and such a blessed communion. I saw my apple trees in reflected in #3 of Berry’s list.  My apple trees remind me of the power of setting, the context of truth, and the reality of “place”, as Berry spent a lifetime showing us.

Essentially, I have Wendell Berry apple trees.

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I grew up in Northern California.  My dad grew up on farms (and on ships and apartments and parsonages and apartments — he was an Army brat), but little of the farm rubbed off on him.  I grew up with almost no agrarian tendencies.

When I became a home owner, we had a backyard. My wife was the landscaper, so she did a great job designing our backyard.  But to turn it into food, into supporting oneself, and to even use it to bless a neighborhood…it was the farthest thing from my imagination.

Wendell Berry, like so many agrarians, argue that a suburban back yard can be converted into a mini-farm that could feed them throughout the year with enough fruits and vegetables.  Hearing this, I was humbled: I could never do that!  What defined my backyard was an agrarian lack of confidence.

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I wasn’t alone in this.  Most of my neighbours and friends and elders in my churches did not practice good husbandry of plants and animals.  Most had lawns and bushes, cared for by hired migrant laborers who came in while everyone was at work, mowing and pruning and caring for the slim plots of land only to flee the moment the home owners returned[2].

I moved to Canada and gone were the day labourers. Instead, I had friends that were farmers.  Often there would be a table in the back of the church or board room filled with dirty raw fruits and vegetables. These agrarians were kind and forceful, often bringing extra bags of their produce to everyone and anyone.  If they didn’t bring these dirty bags, the food would just get wasted and that was a fate worse than death.

In this Canadian farm town, I can remember coming home from a community meeting with a large garbage bag that smelled of dirt. “Honey,” I said to my wife.  “We have 8 pounds of beetroot.”

“Why?” she asked.

“There was an agrarian that wouldn’t allow me to leave unless I took a bag.  Somewhere in his truck, he had a hunting rifle.  I think he was armed.  I did what he told me to do.”

In 2014, my family to the city and inherited 6 apple trees.  The former owner of my home had loved her garden.  She, along with three neighbours, had grown food together, canned together, and sought to feed their neighbourhood.  By the time we arrived, only one of these agrarians remained — and she died in our first fall with the hope of having “one last harvest”.

My first year, I just mowed over the apples. The trees were in my way, yielding a crop worth nothing.  I mean, if I wanted an apple, why not just buy one from a multi-national, multi-chain supermarket?

Plus, the apples were puny and small.  They weren’t the standard, systematically grown things I was used to in my grocery bag.  Some had scars and there might have been a disease on them.

Talking to my farmer friends and a tree specialist, the solution to my apples was made clear: pick them before they fall to the ground and do something with them.  That will break the chain of disease and scars.

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So, I made applesauce.  Soon, my kids became applesauce snobs: they couldn’t bear to eat the stuff in disposable containers bought from the stores.  Only the “real stuff”.   Making applesauce trained me to see the value of my apples and that caused me to give them away to friends, neighbours, co-workers, and, eventually, complete strangers.

The taste of fresh applesauce changed how I saw food, mainly because I could taste only “fresh” when it came to things from my backyard.  A friend of mine who ran a small farm outside of town invited my girls to pick peas from their hobby garden.  My youngest described the food as “fresh like applesauce”.

Getting to know my food and those who grew the food was the journey my apples took me upon.

“You’ve become one of those people.  Apple people.  People who force unsuspecting friends to take large bags of produce away that smell of dirt,” my wife warned me.  She was right: I was becoming an agrarian.

I gave a bag of my really small apples to a friend of mine and who looked at them.  “You can make bigger apples, you just have to prune your trees,” she said.

“What’s this ‘pruning’ you talk about?” I asked in my southern Californian accent.

I then learned about pruning.

It’s spring now, but I’m eyeing my apple trees that remind me everything about Wendell Berry’s list.  Soon, I’ll no longer just have Wendell Berry apples but a Wendell Berry backyard.  That backyard might make a Wendell Berry neighborhood.  That Wendell Berry neighborhood make eventually make a Wendell Berry church, informing people how to make their neighborhoods into Wendell Berry neighborhoods.

I first got into Wendell Berry because he introduced me to the notion of a harmonious church: if a church ran like a good farm, then it would be a blessing to the land around it.   As this is my 100thblog, I’ve looked back to see his writings throughout my musings about art, faith, church, and culture. Harmony is something lost right now in the 21stcentury, specifically as people think about faith and goodness and health.  This is why, more than ever, I think Wendell Berry’s farm is a powerful calling no matter where our place might be.

Being good neighborhoods.  Being kind to the land and animals.   Hating waste.  Growing health that overpowers exploitation and ruin.  Doing what is right over what is just new.  Having what you need and needing what you have.

I can’t live like this right now for it’s so new, so foreign to me.  But bit by bit, inch by inch, square yard by square yard…it’s happening.

Wendell Berry has given me a dream to love my place; for you to love your place; and for us, together, to love each other’s places as we share from each other’s prospective places.  By the way, this is more than just fruits and vegetables and farming. Farming is the practical and active metaphor (yet it MUST be a practical one, we cannot quarantine to just the abstract).

This is a dream we grow towards as we grow our place.

Or, as Wendell Berry writes:

“The order of loving care is of human making. It varies as it must from place to place, time to time, worker to worker, never definitive or final.   It is measurable by the health, the happiness too, of the association of land and people.  It is partly an ideal (remembering divine or natural order) partly a quest, always and inescapably a practice.[3]

 

 

[1]Berry, Wendell.  “The Art of Loading Brush”. Counterpoint: Berkeley, 2017.  Pg. 5, 6.

[2]An irony lost on many of my Republican, churchgoing friends was that they would have day laborers take care of their backyards, but in the evenings they would attend rallies to build walls around their country to keep these agrarians out of their neighborhoods.

[3]Ibid, Pg. 18

Writers Should Never Throw Away Anything. Ever.

In University, I enrolled in a class about writing.  The professor gave me the single, greatest piece of advice: “Never throw away anything.  Keep it.  You will use everything you got if you write for a lifetime, so nothing is wasted.  Save everything.”

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She was not encouraging hoarding, but ideas.  Store them.  File them.  Read them later.  Repurpose, re-use, and recycle them for later.  It’s only waste if you stop writing and creating.

And who would ever want to do that?

I repeated this advice years later to a friend who was just beginning to work on her doctorial thesis: “Write your dream thesis.  Make it perfect.  Then make another copy, submitting that to the academics and doctors and everyone else.  They will make changes, make it sound smart, add words, and reformat it.  Defend that 2nd document.  Get your degree.  And then go back to your original one and re-read it.  Never lose it.  Love it, for that one belongs to you.”

Never throw anything away.

Sadly, after hearing this advice, I haven’t kept everything.  As my writing got transferred from computer to computer, technology wasn’t kind to me.

I’ve lost the first novel I wrote after University due to a faulty disk.  It was a black humor, post-modern thing about doom and destruction of a river resort town off the Colorado River.  Characters are lost to me along with one of the greatest first paragraphs to a chapter I ever came up with:

 

Barbar says I’m indifferent.  Maybe I am? 

 

A simple joke, it introduce the read to the character, the problem, and the existential angst in 7 words.  As a young writer, I had an economy with words that future readers of my work no longer enjoy.  With age comes lots and lots of words…

I lost an essay, years later, I sent out as an e-mail years before I discovered the concept of blogging.  It journaled my adventures in the 2005 San Diego Comicon.  It’s lost to me in cyberspace.  I stood in line for hours to meet Bruce Campbell and Ray Bradbury.  It was also my swansong to America, for a week after the event I immigrated to Canada.  I ended the essay with Ray Bradbury’s words to me:

 

“Thank you, young man!  Thank you!  And farewell!” 

 

Can’t find that one, titled, “Escape from LA.”   Or some other title.  I don’t know, it’s lost.

But most I’ve backed up.   My dad, who lived a mostly Spartan existence, encouraged me as a boy to have a junk drawer: a place to put broken things, toys, or other items that do not have a place yet to be stored.

A storyteller gains more and more power the greater, the bigger his/her mental junk drawer is maintained.

In my junk drawer is a 360-page manuscript that is unfinished called “Saturday Morning Goddess”.    This was to be a novel of a small film study that cranked out live action children’s shows in the late 1970’s.  So much of the production stories were borrowed from Sid and Marty Krofft, along with 1970’s Geek culture that it turned more into an atlas of a “How to” make a show before video taping and the internet.  Of course, there was a monster and a supernatural villain and some horror- my brain, at the time, couldn’t just write a normal story.

Looking in the rough draft, there was a bit of almost ancient scribbling that caught my heart.  There are mistakes and it needs editing and all of that- but I keep it untouched, mostly, as a time capsule to my writing.

The then Eric was describing the show’s producer and benefactor, a larger than life character who lived in a location close to my then La Mirada home:

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            The castle was a lone mansion atop of a hill overlooking my parent’s city in La Habra, atop the Whittier hills.  Surrounded by acres and a tall, stone fence, it reminded us of the Hammer Horror movies we snuck into see when we were kids, complete with a mad scientist and monsters.   Once, when I was a young teen, my friends and I tried to bicycle up the hills and patrol the gate, to see if there was a break in the fence so we could sneak in.  We hardly made it up half the hill, before we had to turn around and exhausted. 

            Everyone, including adults and teachers, called the mansion “Frankenstien’s Castle” and used it as a point of reference.  No one knew who presently owned it, but my film editor professor told me, once he heard I lived in La Habra, that the mansion had been built by a silent movie star in Germany, known for filming horror movies leaning towards expressionist tendencies.  The actor was call Fritz Deholtz, a kind of Lon Chaney mixed with Lange.  He retired the year Germany went to “talkies”, took his fortune, and moved to California.   My professor believed Deholtz died the day World War 2 was officially over. 

            So for a week prior to my appointment, my parents and friends were eager to find out what Frankenstien’s castle looked like up close.  My father told me the story that two young college students, English Majors from a nearby Christian University, wanted to climb over the fence, but was chased away by packs of wild animals.  For revenge, they hung a sign on the wall, “Warning: do not break Xanadu’s Defenses”.   My father told me this story for three reasons:

  • He loved any story where Christians were chased by wild animals.
  • He thought it was a sign of over-education that they, in order to insult the owner, they used an allusion to Coleridge and expected the world to get the “joke”.
  • This was the closest anyone he knew got to seeing the inside of the mansion.

 

I love this because there were about three houses I knew that fit this description.  It’s also a fantastic way to introduce someone via a great, big, haunted house.

The novel never was finished, mainly because I couldn’t come up with a satifysing ending.  It was written before I outlined my novels so I had the sense of some big, supernatural confrontation at the Republican National Convention of the 1980 Presidency, but I couldn’t make it work.  Plus, why would costumed superheroines and monsters want to vote for Ronald Regan?

So, it’s there, unfinished.  Along with this passage from another Kubla Kahn:

 

  The Boar inhaled his first breath, feeling the surge of life crackle throughout his new body.   For his first moment, he shook with the electricity of being alive.  He felt nothing, least of all cold.  Later, he would have plenty of opportunity to be cold.  

            The Boar looked around the metal hallway.  Below his five paws grew patches of grass and moss.  Above his head hummed the gentle wind of the air conditioning and heat.   Down the hall, he could make out a small orb of light.  

            The creature looked around at his first sights, the world to that had created him.  Another power surge buzzed behind his ear, completing some of the last of his network.  Even though he could stand and think and feel, his development was far from complete.  He could feel the cool air from an overhead vent blow through some holes in his core.  Soon, though, his body would be solid and able to do such things as digest, restore lost cells, and regenerate. 

            That was later.  Now, the only thing the Boar could do was stand…and hunt.

            Hunt?, a single thought twitched inside of his new mind.  The teeth, the hunger, the chemicals in his saliva, his instincts, and his movement all pointed to one thing: to kill in a hunt. 

            Hunt.  After the recognition of consciousness came purpose to the Boar.   Hunt.  Kill.  Maim.  Wound.   Yes, it agreed.  This is what my life shall be.  I am, therefore I hunt.

            He lifted his snout.  Smelled the air.  Dank, metallic.   He lowered his snout to the ground.  Grass, with some mildew.  He turned around to smell.  Flesh.  Human flesh.  The flesh of a young woman.   No clothes, wet, and alone.  50 meters away. 

His programming told him of these smells; this was the first time he could experience them.  Such things as, “clothes”, “human”, and “measurement” came naturally to him, as if it was a part of his need to hunt.  This vocabulary stood as facts, nothing more, without meaning or interpretation.  They stood with only one practical application: to hunt. 

 

This is from a completed novel called “Eons to You”.   I wanted to call it “Candians in Space”, but it was too much of a leap for me to consider a future where Canada had a monopoly on space travel.  However, the heroes/heroines of the story were on a space ship and they thought mostly like Canadians; they landed on a colony that lived their lives like Americans from one of the Red States.  The conflict then occurred.

I loved the novel but could never find a market for it, so I left it in my Junk Drawer. Years ago, I workshopped it any my user group agreed on the following assumptions: 1) Great Beginning.  2) None of the characters acted like astronauts.

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I had cast Ben Folds as one of the astronauts along with Richard Pryor and a friend of mine, who was doing youth ministry at the time.  This is great about being a writer: you can put your friends with celebrities divided by 40 years of pop culture.  Perhaps if I called it “Ben Folds and Richard Pryor: IN SPACE” it would have sold better.

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Ideas don’t die, they don’t go away.  Someday, I might have a use for them: Richard Pryor in Frankenstein’s castle.  Or not.  Keep them, re-use them.  Someday, we might have a future where these settings and characters save the world.

Is Regeneration a Resurrection? Doctor Who, Easter, and April Fools Day

It’s Easter.  It’s April Fool’s Day.  And it’s the space in time between Doctor Who series.

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I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s Day or pranks or practical jokes.  There’s a lying, truth/betrayal thing that happens that I could never get my head around.  I never could put my finger on it until TV host John Oliver described my sentiment[1].

Sure, I’ve been pranked and your job is just to smile, nod, and give the prankster enough celebration so he/she feels like they’ve got their money’s worth.  But it’s a service, an act of kindness for the other person and nothing I would ever enjoy.

April Fool’s Day isn’t terribly great, but Easter is fantastic.  Rebirth, renewal, do-overs, 2nd chances, change…all of the things fans of Doctor Who love and are used to.

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There is a cycle that happens with fans of the show.  They first watch it, connecting with the Doctor (their first Doctor) and then he/she dies.  It’s tragic and horrible and gut wrenching, but then they glow with light and change.  New Doctor, in every sense.  Now they’re stuck with the question most vividly experienced Clara with the Capaldi’s Doctor: “Who is this Doctor?  This is not my Doctor?  Is this Doctor a good man?”

Gallifreyians (the race of the Time Lords and the Doctor) has this way of cheating death.  They live a full- if not prolonged- life until they die, only to be reborn into a new person.  This new life retains the core of the original and has memory and maturity gained from the past lives.  But quirks and traits and attitudes can be different in the new regeneration.

Sometimes, this process is smooth (Patrick Troughton), sometimes the Doctor gets an incredible cold (David Tennet, Peter Davison), and sometimes the Doctor goes a bit wonky (Colin Baker, Peter Capaldi).   However, the one constant is that the person of the Doctor changes.   New personality, new face.

This is best described in Matt Smith’s regeneration as he learns what his new self’s taste buds might be:

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Who am I?  Is my core good?  Can I be trusted?  What am I now?

These are the questions the asks himself/herself every time regeneration takes place.  Who am I now? How am I different and how am I the same?

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This is the journey of the Time Lord through regeneration.  It’s a big a adventure, for it asks what is the core someone and what is just window dressing to one’s personality.

Kind of exciting, isn’t it?

 

 

 

I have been a youth pastor for 13 years in California.  When I left teaching teenagers and entered into speaking to a small, rural parish in Canada, my wife previewed all of my sermons.  We both were working on making the best sermons I could give, yet I had the habit of adding sound effects to my messages.  It was a really, really hard habit to break.  I also used funny voices to act out different characters in the Gospel readings.  I had to stop that too.

During my first 9 years as a Baptist pastor, the youth pastor me would show up.  Sometimes as a welcomed guest; a lot of times, not so much.

After 20 years of being an Evangelical minister, I have entered into Anglicanism.  I am interning in a rural parish, full of folks who have been incredibly kind and supportive and patient.  They allow me to do the homily (which is different than a sermon) in the liturgical service.

And, once in a while, Baptist Eric pops up.  He’s like the newly emerging Anglican Eric, but also different.  It’s best if Baptist Eric can arrive with a warning, but that doesn’t always happen.  A congregant once remarked that the Baptist pastor came, every now and again, but she was happy when the Anglican Eric returned.

Who is Eric?  A youth pastor?  A Baptist?  And Anglican?

We, like Time Lords, have our past selves that show up, interrupt, and then vanish.  Who am I?, is often a key question.  What is my core?  Is my core good?  Am I good person?

These are important, appropriate questions as we journey from one of life’s thresholds and into the next season.  For those who recently become parents, this question- am I good mother/father- is constantly asked.  At a new job, arriving in a new country, or entering a new season is about the questions, the embrace of change.

We change; the Doctor changes.

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As we look forward to Jodie Whitaker’s change, we will be asking, “Is she a good woman?”   We don’t know, do we?   New showrunner, new musical score, now costume, new actress, new gender, new…everything.  Will the core remain?  We don’t know.

Kind of exciting, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

Is the Resurrection of Easter another way to regenerate?

Certainly, the writers of the show are aware of the similarities.  There are moments when the Doctor has been a Savior-type.  The Doctor has saved the cosmos, laid down his life for his friends, corrected injustices, defended the exploited, offered forgiveness, and spoke truth.

But is the change of the regeneration a Resurrection?

When the Doctor regenerates, he/she changes; when Christ resurrected, reality changed.

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When Christ died, was buried, and rose again- the laws of science concerning death now became mere suggestions to the will of God.  God did not find a hidden science another law or a loophole in the system for Christ to rise from the dead: no, science was science- just put on hold for Easter.

There are many theologians who disagree over what the Easter body of Christ was like.  Some argue that He was all spirit, never leaving a footprint in the sand (this is supported by the account that Jesus walked through locked doors, John 20:19-20), argued against by other theologians (Jesus inviting Thomas to put his fingers in his mortally wounded side, John 20:24-29).   I’m not entering into a discussion on these details, rather maintaining the point that Jesus was Jesus and the same Jesus the Disciples knew before the cross.  The past Jesus didn’t have to call the future, re-assuring the Disciples it’s still Him (Like Matt Smith’s Doctor to Clara).  No, everything changed around Him but Christ was still Christ.

For those whose beliefs are different than the claims of Christianity, I am seeking not to change you by bringing this up.  Rather, though, let us look at history: Christianity became something altogether new the moment of the eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

From the moment of the empty tomb, the followers of Jesus now can see death as something negotiable.  If a follower of Jesus does die, it is not the end (“But the end of the beginning”, as C.S. Lewis describes).   The resurrection shapes how a follower or emulator or copier of Jesus sees the world: it is now with new eyes.  There is little unrest that Jesus is a different person, rather it is an active pursuit to start seeing how much Jesus has changed the world.

In the early church, this shaped how they saw martyrdom and persecution: what’s the worst Rome can do to us?  Kill us?  They tried that once with our leader and didn’t stick.

Concerning funerals, the service is seen not as lamenting the theft of life but rather a celebration, a release from this world to the next.

And concerning biology- the study of our meat and bones- the resurrection changes the reality that there’s more to us than just our bodies.  Something inside of us moves on.   The core of who we are remains, but our reality changes around us.

Easter is not about the change of Jesus, but how Jesus changed reality.

Kind of exciting, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

[1] Here’s the link.  (Warning: he uses offensive language):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXYXuXX48m8