June 07, 2023
Sharing a story from the second audiobook in the “Tales of the Kingdom” series: “Tales of the Resistance,” David and Karen Mains discuss the bottom-line message of the Lord Jesus Christ: His Kingdom. Understand that the Kingdom of God is wherever the reign of God’s Son is recognized and honored.
Karen for some years I’ve wanted to record book three in our Kingdom Tales series called Tales of the Restoration. Several and it’s been decades ago now. Books one and two were done, but I never got around to recording the stories in book three. The truth be told, I waited too long. My voice has changed and I can’t match what I did earlier. So recently I set about to start all over again and I am now very, very close to the end of that project. With the three books, that’s 36 stories, so it is a pretty good size job. Anyway, on our Before We Go podcast, I thought we could resort to storytelling.
David: We felt like it would be good just to have a break from what all of us have been hearing on the news day after day, week after week, month after month.
Karen: And that sounds good to me. I hope it sounds good to all of our listeners. So stay with us please.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: Karen for some years I’ve wanted to record book three in our Kingdom Tales series called Tales of the Restoration. Several and it’s been decades ago now. Books one and two were done, but I never got around to recording the stories in book three. The truth be told, I waited too long. My voice has changed and I can’t match what I did earlier. So recently I set about to start all over again and I am now very, very close to the end of that project. With the three books, that’s 36 stories, so it is a pretty good size job. Anyway, on our Before We Go podcast, I thought we could resort to storytelling.
Karen: Sounds good to me. Of all the books we’ve written, the ones that have just continued to sell and the ones that have continued to have people talk about them are these three books in the Tales of the Kingdom series. So, the first book was Tales of the Kingdom, second book was Tales of the Resistance. The last one was Tales of the Restoration. And David has picked four stories in the series where the king is the central figure. He’s actually the central figure of all three books, but there are some stories that just absolutely focus on the king. They’re not Bible stories. They highlight spiritual truths. They are allegorical, but they’re not just strictly allegory.
David: Let’s define that one too.
Karen: Allegory is where each thing represents some meaning. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is the classic allegory that’s lasted through centuries. So this gave me the freedom as an imaginative writer to take spiritual truths and to put them in a setting that was not strictly didactic, where it taught and was right in your face. You had to discover the meaning. So beautiful and lasting children’s literature touches the adult because they get the meaning beneath the ostensible meaning. It touches the child because they just love the story. And somewhere around high school or early college age, they begin to sense that there’s more than the story. There are deeper meanings in the story and those age sets are often capable of finding it.
David: Let’s go to the story. This is the one called the most beautiful player of all. A little bit of music and we’re into it.
The Dakota of the Enchanter loomed in the middle of Enchanted City, so that none would forget the watching eye of the fire wizard. Close by, and a happier place, was the Palace of the Players.
Here the people of the city, filled with weariness and heart sickness, came and forgot for a time their griefs and fears and pains. Thespia stood in the wings of the stage, brushing her long and luxuriant hair. She was the most beautiful of all the players, and even now she could hear the house chanting her name, Thespia, we want Thespia! Many suitors sought her hand, but she turned them all away. “Flowers from the Dakota”, the assistant stage manager called. Thespia yawned and instructed the gift to be delivered to her suite in the Palace.
“Four minutes, four minutes”, the call-boy warned. Thespia straightened her gown and took one last look in the mirror. Through a crack in the thick velvet curtain she could see the theatre was full. It was almost time for the play to begin. “Poor ones, poor poor ones. Forget for a while, then, home again only to remember your empty half-lives.” She whispered this hollow blessing over them.
“See ya tonight”! The lead actor shouted as he hurried to take his position. “Quiet”! Warned the stage director. But Thespia wanted to protest to the actor, and she shrugged her shoulders and turned to wait for that always-thrill. The curtain is rising and the stage filled with the sudden radiance of spotlights. Then the Sonora’s voices of trained players.
She particularly loved tonight’s play. The return of the King had been banned for years, but recently several old myth cycles had been restored to the Palace repertoire. “We need a King.” Thespia quickly looked around as though the stage-hands could read her innermost mind. Treasonous this thinking. She knew it. Careful or the most beautiful player of all would play a final role tied to a stake at Burning Place. The first rule all children of Enchanted City learned after branding was, there is no such thing as a King. Death to pretenders.
“Senseless”, she thought, and looked around again. “If there’s no such thing as a King, why such a fuss? The placards. The lectures. The propaganda songs. No King, no King, the Enchanters, the Thing.” Silence would have helped her to forget. But each protest made her wish all the more if only there really were a King.
“Three minutes, three minutes”! As a lonely understudy, Thespia determined to be the finest player in all of Enchanted City. Unlike other actresses who became arrogant and haughtily cut all ties with their past, Thespia perfected her art in the streets.
She refused to become enamored with his sterile practice rooms, the posh living suites, and the luxuries of the palace of the players. She bound up her flex and hair with common cloth and walked the marketplace, listening to how real people spoke words. Often, she went back to her own people, to Marrioxen where they lived, to the stacked hovels where she had been raised. There she carried old granny’s burdens that weighed their bent-backs double, and she brought tidbits of food for the always-hungry waifs. She wept when orphans were taken away to the orphan keeper, and she felt the cold whistling through these always-night lives and remembered what it was to never have enough fire or power. Their pain became her own, and their small and meager joys as well. Because she did not despise them, she was loved, and it was they, the street people, sitting on the gallery floor who called her name.
One night, one terrible night, her cousin’s wee babe wriggled in agony in Thespia’s arms while searchers hunted his mother, who was foraging in a city-edge work shift. It squinched up its tiny face, took a last long breath, and died. Shuttering with sobs, Thespia hid in a tower of the players’ palace. How could she act the next night, play the comic, with this terrible knowledge that in enchanted city babies died who shouldn’t die?
She grieved with new understanding. There was little she or anyone could do. Placards in the tower proclaimed it is forbidden to watch the day. Her bitter soul declared, “Another ridiculous rule, I will watch the day, and if it slays me, then I am slain.” As the golden sun rose, burning her eyes with grandeur and casting a brilliance over Enchanted City, Thespia thought she had never seen anything so beautiful. That moment of magnificence marked her soul as truly as the branding iron had marked her body. There must be more, she thought. This beautiful light must mean there is a better life. Whenever she stepped on stage, whether it be for ordinary performances, or for Gala premieres, or for command entertainment set the Dagoda, this was the moment she resurrected. The light rising, shining gloriously over the city, that memory filled her with a special power.
In time, Thespia had become what she had vowed to be, the greatest player of all. A simple twist of a wrist, a motion of her hand, the arch of her eyebrows, one half turn of her slender waist, left audiences amazed and delighted. Thespia took deep breaths to calm her familiar stage anxiety. “Orchestra and beginners.” There was a backstage scurry as actors and actresses took their positions, stage left, stage center, front, then a pounding, the one-minute signal, then the house lights dimming, then a hush as the audience quieted, then the lovely melody of an ancient hymn as the violins begin their lilting music. Thespia loved the words of this overture.
Let us go down, go down in class pans and breathe life and taste the jagged edge of pain and sing songs of the better place, the better time, the better day. No wonder she had fallen in love. For too long Thespia had watched the breakers, cudgelmen and women, and Moriachsen. For too long she had heard the chilling moan of the naysayers in the wind of winter’s night. “Nay, nay, nay, nay, nay, nay, nothing can be done, nothing will be done, nay, nay, nay.” Thespia had fallen hopelessly in love with the king. Oh, not the actor king, though he was handsome and her ardent admirer, but the mythical king of the play, the one who was strong but not brutal, who could laugh with joy and weep with freedom, who never leered at beautiful women, who told stories to children and gentle the fears of the old, whom the young man followed because he was the bravest of all, who found beauty in the ugly and whose very words spoke hope.
So, the flowers wilted. The love suits went unanswered, and Thespia convinced all in the Dakota that she was passionately devoted to her art alone. And every time she acted in the return of the king, it was like falling in love all over again.
“Psst! Thespia”! The prompter hissed. “Entrance”! She stepped onto the stage, her hair tumbling and captured, stage-like glowing like a halo. There was a gasp from the gallery, and applause from the boxes. She closed her eyes and evoked the memory of the rosy at sun rising, rising, as to it shimmering beneath the overhead spotlights. “Oh, we are mortals, and a forgotten huddle laughs”, she recited. “Who will show us where laughter is hiding”? Thespia’s eyelashes glistened with tears, because it was true. So true. Perhaps Thespia’s power came from the gallery. From the men and women and children sitting on the floor and wearing ragged, tattered clothes. They too wondered where the laughter had gone. Most players acted to the boxes, to the rich patrons dripping with fur, sitting in plush chairs, their stomachs full. But Thespia played to the floor, to the people. She looked at them with pity. Eager, the whole mob lifted their heads to the stage-light, their mouths open, their eyes wide with wonder.
Thespia loved to make them laugh, loved their unsophisticated, whooping, howling and floor-pounding. She loved to make them weep, to spill the overflow of sorrow that became damned in the dark horrors of Enchanted City. Tonight, beyond the circle of reflected stage-light, she thought she saw a man standing, but he thought, why don’t the ushers have him sit or leave? Two stage beats, a pause. At this moment the actor king stepped from the wing. This was one of the player’s dramatic moments, the actual return of the king, but suddenly the lights flickered and dimmed. A groan went up from the theater. “Power out! Oh, power out”! Even the players on stage moaned. “Lights, lights, lights”! shouted the street people.
Doesn’t anything ever work in this wretched city? In dismay, Thespia realized she had spoken out loud. The actor king leaned close to her. “Careful, rumors say there’s revolt underfoot.” But then Thespia noticed that a light was shining in the darkened auditorium. The man she had seen in the gallery shadows seemed to be standing in his own light. She blinked and took a closer look. He seemed vaguely familiar. From the back of the hall he raised his hand in greeting, shyly, hardly realizing she did, so she reached out her hand toward him, and the theater quieted as all watched the man walk within a center of his own radiance to the orchestra pit. He perched upon the rim, apologized to the musicians, and folded up to the stage. “This where I make my entrance, I believe”, he said, and his voice was wonderful, filled with the echo of faraway hills and laughing country streams. He stood in the middle of the stage and held out strong arms. “There is a real kingdom”, he announced, “and a real king.” Without realizing it, all the players took one step closer to his warmth.
Some in the gallery rose to their knees. The man motioned to the conductor. “Music”, he said, and the orchestra began to play. “Up-tempo.” The beat quickened in the percussion section and wound its way in and out among the street people, whose feet began to tap. “In the kingdom of light there is no night.” And the man smiled at the gallery, at all in the house and at the players on the stage. The beat waltzed its way to the tiers of boxes, and even a few of the wealthy patrons began to clap, to dum, to dum, to da, da, dum. “In the kingdom of light” the man chanted, “the day shines bright.” The music was infectious. How many chanted back? “In the kingdom of light the day shines bright.” To da, to da, to da, da, dum played the orchestra.
The man raised his hands for quieter music. “Have you ever heard of a kingdom where outcasts were welcomed”, the man asked? And the people answered, “No.” “Have you ever heard of a kingdom where every orphan had a home”? “No.” “Or were those who lived in light could live in it, or were those who sought for a king found him”? The man lowered his voice to a stage whisper, and the whole audience leaned forward to hear. “In the kingdom of light everything’s right.” “Ah”, sighed the house. And for a moment everyone in the audience knew this was no play, no myth cycle dragged out of the palace archives. “Ah”, sighed the gallery again, a long sigh.
If only there were such a place, such a real place. The man offered his arm to the actor king, standing on one side of him, and his other arm to the gasped. The people in the gallery were clothed in warm garments. Their runny sores were healed. They were clean and healthy. This could be true. She blinked her eyes and stared again and realized she was seeing the people through the glow of the man’s light. Tears ran down her cheeks. Real tears, not players’ tears. “If it could only be. If only there really were such a place. Huh, who are you”? she asked the man. He answered softly, “You know who I am.” Sobs broke her words, “but how do we find this kingdom of which you speak”? He turned to both her hands in one hand and wiped away her tears. The other players gathered close, and one put his arm around Thespia’s shoulders to comfort her. “Follow me”, said the man. “The real kingdom is wherever I walk and whenever anyone walks with me.” Thespia knew. He was wearing common clothes, the plain garments of the people, but she wanted to fall at his feet and bow. Tears blurred her vision. She turned from the man, faced the audience, and walked to the edge of the stage. She stretched one hand to him and one hand to the gallery as if in introduction. “The king”, she said.
“My Lord”, the people. Suddenly the lights blinked off on. The man with power was coming up. Someone in the boxes shouted, “there’s no such thing as a king. Death to pretenders.” And several began to chant, “death, death, death.” The orchestra stopped playing and all the notes tumbled together and fell on a heap. The man made power suddenly came fully on and the lights blazed forth.
The audience shifted in their seats and patted their clothes straight. “What a strange play. It must be intermission.” But then all these old myth cycles were odd. The people stood to stretch, and the magical moment was gone. And the players exited, trying to remember what lines had been said and which lines remained to be said and who had the last cue. And the stage director didn’t know which act to call next. But Thespia stayed beside the man who was buttoning his coat as though he meant to go. “Are you leaving”? She asked.
“Yes, the moment for believing is gone.” She held her breath. “Can I come with you”? He bowed and took her hand and kissed it. Then he helped her climb as gracefully as possible over the orchestra pit, and they walked down the aisle and left the theater together, and few seemed to see them go. And Thespia became a street player in the back alleys and dead ends of Enchanted City, acting out the king’s story in such a way that all who saw her suspected then hoped that there was a real kingdom.
Like the king, she worked in common clothes, and she never gave the luxuries of the palace a backward glance, because when one has found one’s real love, it is easy to leave what has only been pretend.
David: As we work together on these tales and the motivation I was involved in that is that a lot of people hear the term the kingdom of God, but don’t know what it means, so we’re trying to unpack that for people.
Karen: That is a theology that has been lost. I think we’re beginning to recover that theology. I mean, so it is a theology we need to grapple with and understand, and it’s an extraordinarily beautiful theology.
David: You’ll hear next visit the tale called the sewer rat and the boiler brat. One of my favorites, but every time I announce another tale, it’s one of my favorites. Look forward to getting together. And Dean, if you can, just a word as to how people might be able to get these tales.
Dean: David, I would be happy to. The fastest way to get information on where to buy the Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy 30th anniversary edition is to go to this website www.KingdomTales.com.
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