Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Puddleglums

"It is the work of the Puddleglums, 
often with stink and pain, 
to show us that there is something wrong with the way things are, 
and that there is a better country to long for." 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

St. Patrick

I was thinking about St. Patrick this week. There weren't a lot of Christians in Ireland when he began ministering there. The pagans were prevalent. But the pagans did not prevail.  

The light overcomes the darkness.  Don’t forget. 

The Whole Story

"Despair forgets 
that there are more pages. 
It gazes at the brief span of our lives 
and complains 
that all should be fulfilled 
before 
the page is turned. 
But hope loves the whole story. 
Hope breathes, laughs, and draws courage 
from gazing upon something grander than self. 
It grows in an epic tale, a tale with joys that 
cannot be abridged 
within one hundred years on earth." 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Courage Every Day

Flax flowers, tall and green crowned with sky-blue petals bend beneath the water falling on them, stooped double, dripping and dreary under a summer sky shrouded in grey.  Am I made for such a world where the beauty bows to necessity, where death is such a threat that the glorious sun must be cloaked, life furled?

I wish I had made these observations while on a walk, but I was driving.  My car was pulling out of my driveway to carry me to the paces just outside of where babies die.  The heart of me resisted, catching its hands on trees and fence-posts, loathe to leave them behind.  A few yards down is a rose garden, and in my mind I shrank…

Paradise.  Shadows and breezes, still and soft and just enough to shed the perfume of the roses across the little green between.  It is like an elven meadow, the little people running about their blissful business – the tallest thing they can see is the living tower of blossoms rimming their country.  No eyes can pass the borders to see the sorrow of our world, the world of mortals.  No tiny heart is troubled like mine, knowing of the suffering and wickedness and death I am about to witness.

Are elves diminutive or tall?  Those legendary immortals, acquainted with nature and delight, cut off from our world by size, by magic, or by choice?  Tolkien wrote about elves, despising the modern conception of them as petal-sized fairies, who evade human capture and notice by their slightness.  The author’s idea was of a people maybe even taller than men, living in the depths of the forests or across the leagues of the sea.  They were powerful and wise, joyful – and sorrowful.  For Tolkien’s elves could see over the roses.  They witnessed mortality and evil and the changing world, and it was a grief to them.

Mankind was in a different sort of captivity: not hemmed by fragrant visions of living loveliness.  Their world was the broken, mortal one, saturated with sorrow.  Battlements built high: temptation, pain, guilt, fear – guarded their even seeing something else.  And then they saw the stars.  Ever beautiful and untouched, glittering points in the sky spoke of a joy and purpose beyond the grueling existence through which men plodded.  Faramir tells that men burdened by mortality built high towers and communed with the stars.

They may have been wrong, seeking something forbidden, discontent with their created lot.  In the Shire lived a different sort of mortal.  They knew fear and death, so they celebrated peace and long life (and birthdays).  Life was too short to simply hoard; they gave away.  In the rural country of the Hobbits there was danger of becoming fat and complacent, gradually surrendering more and more of the fullness of life granted to mortals.  But most didn’t.  They enjoyed things: friends and family, stories, food and drink, walking, gardening.

Outside the Shire, the Hobbits proved that it was they who had built their country, and not that the simple life of relative ease had birthed their contentment.  Hobbits don’t have courage in tight spots because it is hiding deep inside them; their courage is something exercised every day.  It takes enormous strength to feast when you know the world is dark, to hope when it has been so long since anything happened to encourage you.  Complacency is not hope.  And Samwise Gamgee was not complacent.

He carried with him the willingness to seize good times.  His eyes grow large with wonder at the hidden elvish cities he visits. They’re in a gardenous land filled with herbs and wild game just his size, so he stews some rabbit. And when his quest seems hopeless, he sits on the top stair of an enemy tower and sings about the stars: those beacons of hope anchoring him to a reality he belongs to.  He can’t access it now, but it is no less sure or beautiful because it is far away.

“Above all shadows rides the Sun
And Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.”

So in the hobbits we have the same spirit as the elves seeing over their flower-hedge, but in reverse.  The elves looked out and what they saw brought grief in – something they would not shrink from, but took and blended with their joy.  And the hobbits looked out and what they saw brought hope, but they took it and blended it with their weariness.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Borrow

My friend sent me this article, because she knows me.  A stranger, who is, strangely, a sister with whom I will spend eternity, draws familiar with her testimony, speaking of how God reminded her that He is with her in the details of her life, in the scary and the frustrating and the difficult.  He spoke a single time to her, and once the story played out a little, it was proof that He had foreknowledge, that He was providing for her.  So that later on, when things went “wrong”, she could hold that evidence before her and remember to trust Him.  It’s what she said at the end that made me want to share on here:

“Borrow this hope.”

God’s specific work in her life boosted her hope.  God’s specific work in her life can raise our hopes as well.  We can borrow it.  And, on the flip side, our testimonies can lend hope to others.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Psalm 84:11

I hear it, but I’m only half-listening.  On purpose.  I’m distracting myself groping for the truth to counter these lies, the lies that don’t whisper quiet, but yell, from everywhere some days…  There it is.  The truth: 

“No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

There is good to experience in this world, and that’s hopeful. 

There are not good things, and it is possible to experience those, I believe.  Sin steals good from my moments, until I throw myself on His grace again. 

Good is not always what the world defines.  Sometimes good takes everything I’ve got and more, but there is always enough for the next thing, too.  It is not always pleasure.  It is not always satisfaction of every hunger. 

Good exceeds the glory of those things.  It is glorious to praise God while still hungering.  My dear friend, Alanna, has had a quote from her hero, Amy Carmichael, up on her whiteboard,



Part of the glory in this good is that God is here, walking with me, and I am not alone however lonely my heart is. 

God is able to give good things; they are “in His gift” as the old term goes, and He chooses not to withhold them.  It isn’t that I deserve them, even when I’m walking uprightly.  It has been established that “there is none who does good” and “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags”, that the “wages of sin is death” so that every breath, every new morning I wake to, is another instance of mercy. 

Uprightness is accepting His grace, rejecting my own way and welcoming His.  It is incompatible with this welcoming to reject what He calls good, the way He scripts my days and years.  If there is suffering in it, in the uprightness, it is not something to be ashamed of. 

Welcoming looks like peace, looks like prayer, looks like little work and lots of loves and sometimes not trying to change the people that God wants to change Himself.  It looks like rejoicing and praise and a life of confident purpose, or if not confidence in that, at least security in belovedness.  That's hopeful.