I received an email regarding my book, “The 13th Demon” and I will “paraphrase” it to protect the sender:
I read your book, “The 13th Demon” and passed it on to my brother. He is 15 and has decided to become an atheist. After reading your book, he came to me and began to ask questions. He is now renewing his faith and I want to thank you for your book.
I did NOT see that coming. And, it reminded me of something that happened six years ago. I immortalized my parents’ story of life during World War II in the play, “The Homecoming Tree”. It was performed three consecutive nights at Brookwood Baptist Church in November, 1995. It is the story of my parents’ house and the men, women, and children who moved to the “big” city of Shreveport, Louisiana from the farm and lived there at the beginning of World War II. It tells the story of a young boy, age 13 and his coming of age when he realizes his father may not come home from Pearl Harbor and he has to become “the man of the house”. This coming of age is represented by the boy cutting down the family Christmas tree by himself.
In writing, producing, and directing this play, I was able to honor my father and his extended family and the sacrifice of their incredible generation for our personal freedom. We no longer know what it means to be “the man of the house”. Most men today abandon their families to find their personal identity; to discover themselves often in the arms of a younger woman or in the throes of drugs and alcohol. Most families do not resemble the nuclear family of the forties. And, it is certain, that most households have no idea of God and country; of self sacrifice and dying for what you believe in. Truth is, most of us now believe in ourselves and therefore we are dying for ourselves with overindulgence, personal selfishness, lack of manners, rampant consumerism, and would never consider sacrificing our lives for a principle or a value. The exception are those valiant men and women who still understand the necessity of defending the freedom this country still represents, albeit weakly, to a world that no longer regards the United States as a great country.
“The Homecoming Tree” actually came out of a previous play I wrote in 1994 called “The Night Gift”. In that play, I had two older men, Mr. Collinbird and Mr. Frenchen. They were take offs on Statler and Waldorf, the two old men in the Muppets. Mr. Collinbird was a character constantly cracking jokes and no one took him seriously. The play was set in a modern penthouse office and the characters were trapped on Christmas Eve. Halfway through the play, I wanted to change the mood from light hearted and humorous to serious. The characters decided to share their most memorable Christmas. The first two characters were funny. Then, Mr. Collinbird got up and everyone moaned. But, instead of being funny and sarcastic he told the story of his childhood. He talked about how he went into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree alone because his father was at Pearl Harbor. In the play, the actor, Larry Robison, BECAME a thirteen year old boy and I appeared on the stage in a World War II uniform covered with blood as his father. They told each other goodbye and the young boy returned home to become the “man of the house”.
It was a five minute scene meant only to change the mood of the play. But, on the first night four men came up to me after the play. They wanted to meet the man who had written and directed the play. I was expecting them to criticize the production. But, these elderly men were in tears. They were veterans of World War II and they thanked me for honoring them on Veteran’s Day. It was only then I realized it was November 11th. I cannot describe how this made me feel. I was overwhelmed with emotion and aware very suddenly of how God can use our feeblest, most tangential efforts in His mighty works.
The next night, an elderly lady came up to me afterwards. This is what she said: “My brother died at Pearl Harbor and I have been mad at God since then. And, I’ve been mad at my brother for going off and leaving me to raise my younger sisters and brothers. But, tonight, you gave me a chance to tell my brother goodbye. And, I’ve made peace with my Maker. Thank you.”
How do you respond to that? I couldn’t. This is why I moved on to complete the young boy’s story and write “The Homecoming Tree”. Mike Dellosso recently announced a change in the direction of his writing. I am hoping that in the future I can publish my novelization of this play. I could never have imagined the joy and overwhelming humility I would experience as a writer. God alone inspired me to write that short scene so that those men and women who lived through the horror of World War II would feel honored and loved. For, we do honor them. We do love them for their sacrifice.
What about you? Has God ever surprised you with the response you received for one of your writing projects in a way you never anticipated? Has God used you for His purposes?