Christmas morning usually begins around six for the younger ones (who aren't allowed to rouse the sleeping until 7). This year, however, parents were up before kids, and we didn't all convene in the living room until 7:45. The "littles" must be growing into "biggers"!
Also watch Eric Ludy's other short film, Depraved Indifference.
|Mrs. M with two friends from church|
On the way out, however, chattering and laughing and scurrying to get to our next place on time, someone came bolting up to the front of our group with the message from behind—Mrs. M just fell! A terrible, frantic, sick feeling washed over me—and I’m sure everyone—and I was by her side in an instant. There she lay, moaning as we surrounded her. The dark, cold night, the unfamiliar terrain, the wet cement, and the illogical cement block sprouting out of the sidewalk which had almost tripped many people all conspired to bring Mrs. M, a dear septuagenarian widow, to the ground. While Mama took her to the hospital, everyone else came back to our house where we ate, prayed, cried, talked, and waited on edge for the phone to ring.
Finally, we heard the news—she had broken her shoulder in two places and would likely need surgery. She would come back to our place. And so, since last Tuesday, we’ve had an addition to our family during the holidays. Although we already loved her dearly after an acquaintance longer than a decade, we’ve come to love her even more. Her inability to complain, but her refreshing frankness about her welfare if you ask how she’s feeling, her saintly love for the Lord, and her constant desire to help around the house one-armed—can I be like her when I grow up?
God has blessed, and she won’t need surgery after all. That, however, was not the most amazing surprise of the week. You see—our caroling was worth it, broken bones and all; for shortly after, Jack died, eagerly telling his daughter of his last, bright memory—a group of people caroling of God’s love to him at Christmas and always. We were all affected by this, realizing just how meaningful the Christmas carols are, as they tell the story of Jesus' birth. And so, we have two visitors at Christmas this year—Mrs. M and Jesus. I am so thankful for both their visits, but I owe my life to Jesus’ visit—for without His willingness to come to earth in human form, to become a humble man with a painful mission, to give His life and become the death that is required of all of us for our sins, and to resurrect miraculously, you and I would be doomed to an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Praise the Lord for Christmas visitors!
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress
We also managed to tour the Tower of London under the capable expertise of a yeoman or "beefeater" (the caretakers of the Tower), a thousand year-old fortress most famously used to execute enemies of the crown (including Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn) and protect the royal jewels. Mama and I quite poo-poohed the famous gems, however. Great big gaudy things, they! Who would wear a diamond the size of an egg? (No sour grapes here...)
The day concluded with an opportunity to gape at the Parliament building (by far the most fantastic structure I saw), Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. We enjoyed an exquisite service at the Abbey inside the exquisite yet sadly vacant cavern. Another royal dinner--does it get more English than Welsh Lamb Rack with minted onion jelly?
Thursday we moved into a bed and breakfast run by a lovely old woman who exclaimed over the size of our suitcases and offered up her piano for me to try anytime (and was I going to concertize, she wondered? Concertizing is such a tough road, she speculated, but so definitely worth it). That day we got to enjoy Picadilly Circus (as in "square" not carnival), with its bustling shops, beautiful center statue, and gorgeous Narnian decorations. St. Paul's Cathedral loomed before us in the sunset with marble everything and a rich history beginning in the 17th century--of course, I would be dishonest if I didn't admit that most interesting to us was that the church served as the location of the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and the old woman who sings in Mary Poppins, "Feed the birds...tuppence a bag."
I "geeked" out at the British National Museum. The Rosetta Stone? THE Rosetta Stone? In front of me? In front of me! And so it went...statues from the Parthenon...statues of Egyptian kings from the times of Moses (which I touched)...a Cat of Bubastes...and engravings from an Assyrian Palace. We walked through the snow to find fish and chips (with the ever-present, apparently-essential peas--all British fish and chips seem to be accompanied with peas) to end the night.
We had an experience of a lifetime awaiting us the next morning: the bus tour I had reserved was thrilling, with a jaunt through Runnymede (where the Magna Carta was signed), a tour of Windsor Castle (including state apartments rarely opened to the public but often used by the queen and her guests), picturesque Stonehenge with snow drifts and ravens for props, Beef Wellington in the perfectly antique town of Lacock (where Pride and Prejudice was filmed!) at a 14th century pub, and a memorable stop in Bath (complete with a book shop with the "new" (19th century on) books upstairs, and the "old" books downstairs.
One early-morning, two hour train ride through the Chunnel brought us to Paris the next day for a magical 12 hours with Jen, a friend who is living as a missionary in France with her family. The snow came down fast, furious, and freezing that day, but we still managed to get up to the third level of the Eiffel Tower, wonder at the beautiful Notre Dame, and gawk at the excavations beneath. A two-hour lunch in the most charming cafe (the longer the meal, the better the service), shopping, hazelnut-chocolate crepes, Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe completed our whirlwind, memorable day in Paris. Thank you, Jen!
As you might imagine, Mama and I were exhausted the next morning, but also eager to experience all our last day in London had to offer. We stopped by Handel's house on 25 Brook Street, where he lived for almost two decades, and where he composed The Messiah. Benjamin Franklin's house--the only existing residence of this man--offered an entrancing and dramatic live presentation about the man, his work, and his relationships while in London. The National Art Gallery was a quick stop, with time to gaze at beauties by da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
We spent our last night in London in Covent Garden, strolling the cobblestone streets, enjoying a charming Italian restaurant, and making memories of the scents*, the accents, the people--London.
*Confession Time: In the passport line on our very first day in London, I caught a whiff of a distinctive cologne on a man behind me. From that day on, I smelled this scent positively everywhere--fresh citrus, with hints of cloves, sandalwood, and geraniums. It wasn't until the last night that I found it in a drugstore--Hugo Boss cologne, which (according to my nose) must be the official scent of England.
As The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie—Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes—have grown considerably, maturing not only in age, but in their acting abilities as well. Ben Barnes, who fumbled with his role as the title character in Prince Caspian, also masterfully acts his character. Together these actors, along with newcomer Will Poulter as Eustace Scrubb, manage to create a superb film that suspends all disbelief and brings the audience along on a journey to uncover the mysterious disappearance of seven Narnian lords.
In addition to its success in the acting department, the movie also generally triumphs in the area of special effects, rising to the challenges of turning a nautical painting into a very wet, very salty, and very real water scene; of turning C.S. Lewis’s detailed description of the Dufflepuds into everything avid fans could have imagined; and of creating the brilliant set that is the Dawn Treader, the boat itself. Only the 3D effects fail miserably, managing to just halfway achieve what is possible in 3D. Truly, the beauty of this film can be appreciated much more in the traditional 2D format.
Watching the film is in itself a deeply personal experience; this movie will stir, inspire, and affect you more than either of its predecessors. I watched The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and squirmed as each person was tempted “…when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (James 1:14).” I cried when Aslan freed Eustace of his craggy dragon skin and transformed him into the boy he was always meant to be, and I sobbed again when Reepicheep took his leave of his friends and bravely sailed over the edge of the world to Aslan’s Land. Through these characters, I witnessed the new birth of life in Christ and the final breath of a Christian warrior going to heaven—and these unashamed themes of the movie made the entire experience poignant and beautiful.
Certainly, passionate readers of C.S. Lewis’s series The Chronicles of Narnia will find discrepancies between the book and the movie. Some of the changes worked, and some of them failed (notably, the insipid green mist that mystically “tempts” the characters and the lackluster Dufflepuds). Ultimately, however, the spirit of the book was preserved, and that was exactly what Narnia fans hoped for. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader trumps the movies in the series thus far as a superior, more thoughtful, more beautiful, and more meaningful film with all the richness and depth of C.S. Lewis’s beloved book. It is, indeed, The Chronicles of Narnia all grown up.
Please Note: there are some scary scenes in this movie which may not be appropriate for the ten and younger crowd!
|Two Narnia umbrellas, two soundtracks,|
one journal, and two fabulous Narnia bags
from the folks at Fox!
|The beautiful Albert memorial with Mama on the steps.|
With our extremities thoroughly blue, we warmed up in our hotel room before enjoying a fantastic High Tea in the Park Room of our hotel (again, all paid for by Fox!). The clotted cream was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted—the look and texture of butter, but the taste and richness of whipped cream. The scones were much less biscuit/bread-like, and the sugar cubes came in white and raw, in rustic, irregular shapes.
From then on, the preparations for our gala evening moved into full swing—bobby pins, rouge, silk, powder, and curling irons flying. We even managed to melt down one of our curling irons by using a convertor, but failing to use a transformer—our curling iron couldn’t handle the 220 volts, and it not only died a terrible death, but it also took a strand of Mama’s beautiful hair with it (Little Women anyone?).
We joined the domestic press (that is, two dozen men and women from various press outlets in the United States) in our bus to Leicester Square (pronounced “Lester”, by the way). Once we made it through security, we found ourselves in a fantasy land—a “roundabout” of red carpet with trees dripping with lights, big flakes of snow falling and floating, and a large lamppost reminiscent of the one in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
There was a stage to one side of the circle where the cast was being interviewed. On opposite sides were two avenues of red, leading to two cinemas. Sadly, we were in the theatre where the queen wasn’t. But we watched her come in minutes before the movie started, and the entire cast came on stage to introduce the movie.
Afterwards, Fox threw a party for the press and us, and we spent the time hashing the movie out with some of the Christian press we met. (Stay tuned for a detailed review of the movie on Friday and make plans to see it this weekend!)
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,