Draft One.

Today I sat down in the school library, read a book for theology, took an online test, and shifted my backpack over to a desk near an outlet. There I pulled out my laptop and started to work. Within in five minutes, I realized something. I was done. That was it.

For fifteen minutes I spliced each of the separate chapter files together into draft file. 41,427 words, 99 pages of 11-point Calibri. One complete draft.

Now, I’ve got months to go in terms of editing, and sending it to buddies to edit, and re-editing before I try to get this puppy published. But I’ve got a draft to work with. A glorious draft of lost children in another world putting a king back on his throne. A glorious draft that I am looking forward to cutting, amending, adding onto, tweaking, and tinkering with. In short, complete butchery. Death before resurrection. Good Friday before Easter.

But right now, I’m all Christmas.

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Raid On Hell

I wrote a poem about the Harrowing of Hell (Christ’s descent into Hades) for our talent show. I though it would be particularly fitting for today. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Raid on Hell

 

Sing, wisdom

And bless me with rhythm.

Though I be from a gentile nation,

Teach me a holy syncopation.

For I have a story to tell

Of the raid on hell.

Past the days of Lent,

After the holy sacrament

Between Christ’s death and resurrection,

The day of sin’s final correction,

Between when he died and rose,

When he first removed his mortal clothes.

 

He walked towards hell, brave and bold,

Into death, decay and bitter cold.

Demons fled

With fearful dread

From the God who bled,

From the Man who said,

“Let’s raise the dead.”

A hundred shades

From stony glades,

The spirits of saints

Weary and faint,

Waiting for their Lord

Came straight toward

The sound of his voice,

They made their choice.

The earth it shook

And steps they took

Like says it says in the book,

And they came like crooks

In the night.

In the city of the Jews

The dead spread the news

With Gospel power

In earth’s darkest hour.

People listened and heard,

Drinking every word

Of the story they’d tell

Of the Raid on Hell.

 

Into the valley of death rode the One,

Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

Into the blackest pit,

Into the land unlit

By moon or star.

He’d come so far beneath the earth

To the place where Satan had his birth,

Where demons were chained,

Because they had feigned

To be divine.

Christ gave the sign,

And words he spoke,

Their spirits broke.

For every day this world would turn

These fools would burn.

Welcome, O prince of Hell,

To the light you can’t dispel,

To the flame you cannot quell,

To the barking hounds of Hell,

Waiting since the day you fell,

Heed the story that I tell,

Against the Christ do not rebel.

For he has made

The Raid on Hell.

 

Now hear me talk

He moved the rock,

He rolled the stone,

Like an angel shone,

Come to claim his throne.

Now his kingdom’s grown

Into lands unknown

And the seeds he’s sown

Don’t stand alone.

So pick up the phone,

Make the Gospel known,

Take a heavenly tone

To the devil’s clones

Treat ‘em like your own,

And feel at home,

Cause the Spirit roams

And rings the victory bell,

This word to tell,

This shining spell,

Remember well

The Raid on Hell.

Graves

I’ve lived my life among the graves.

My first graves belonged to pets. Most of them I did not dig. The cats were all buried by my Dad, but I knew where they were. Then our Rottweiler, Bud, died. He was a big, gentle puppy, and though I didn’t cry, I was sad to see him go. He died in a pit he had dug himself, and Dad buried him there. A few years later, our wolfdog, Kuma, died. We watched him coughing and panting for breath. This time, when we buried him, I helped. I raised a cinderblock as his gravestone. The house passed to another family, and now even that is gone.

Later, family died. Grandparents, great grandparents. Human beings I knew and loved. And when the funerals came, there were other headstones around them. Headstones with our name. Generations were buried there, in red clay or black soil, with thick, clingy grass growing over their graves. All that was left was grey stone and words that faded with time.

What is death?

I’ve been in most caves between Nacogdoches and Carlsbad. They’re all dark, cool, and wet. It’s like walking down the throat of a monster, a monster that breathes and moans. Sometimes the tour guides would turn off the lights, and we would sit there in absolute blackness. And in that blackness, we were silent.

But there is another kind of grave.

I’ve been to a war memorial. The soldier’s statue stood tall, armed as he was in life, eternally facing the enemy. Written in the sandstone is the story of that unit, how they stood in the gap as the rest retreated. They fought, many died, but they were victorious. Those men died protecting their homeland from invaders. It was a death they chose for themselves. A death with a purpose.

Today is Good Friday.

The Saxons liked to speak of Christ as a bold warrior, marching towards Golgotha, mounting the cross, staring death in the eyes. There is a sense in which that is true, and today’s Church would do good to remember that. But in a very real sense, that is not what happened all those centuries ago. No, he struggled and wept and sweated blood in Gethsemane. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani. He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was willing. He prayed in the garden knowing full well he would leave in enemy hands. He came to Jerusalem, knowing the Sanhedrin would see him die. He was born on this earth having ordained the rise of the Romans, having chosen the way in which they would crucify him. He was afraid, but he loved us more.

They beat him. They whipped him. The spit on him. They crowned him with thorns and robed him for a moment as they mocked him. Then they nailed him to rough wooden planks and hung him up, naked, for all to see. Finally, when he had died, they stabbed him in the side with a spear. Then, those who knew him removed him from the cross, wrapped him up in burial clothes, and placed him alone in a cave to rot.

I remember another death.

At Grace Bible Church, there was a playground covered in mulch, with rich soil beneath that. The trees there were oaks. Every now and then, acorns would fall everywhere. For a while we trampled on them, broke them open to see their innards, or threw them at each other. But every year there would come a time when the whole yard would sprout with little trees, barely as big as our child-sized hands. Teachers told us to pluck them up, but they had strong roots. Until my dying day, I will never forget all those acorns and how they sprouted into something so strong.

At the moment of Christ’s death, all turned dark, and the foundations of the earth shook. But something else happened. The curtain in the temple, a four-inch thick weight of deep, dark cloth, ripped in two. The way to the Holy of Holies, the throne room of God, was opened. Saints, they say, emerged from their graves. Acorns have a way of sprouting.