Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Playing with poetry again


The wisdom to know the difference

There are the things you can change
and the things you can't
wind and trajectory and range
and the tremor

Entrust your soul to that far target
Know the things you can't
Fit your body to shot, don't forget
Discipline each quiver

Squeeze, the tripped trigger, let it go
and the things you can't
so you just release it, the flow
and the inevitable shake

Twilight on a covered bridge, breath
and there are things you can't
face beyond pictures, breath
trembling paths of touch

Textures, warmth, honey and wine
poured out, you can't
just be, just be there, be mind
shivering in the summer heat

Shut it down. Close your eyes.
The things you can't.
Be. Have. The silent bird flies
Away. For now. The far target.

The tremor.

Seeking the kingdom

Oswald Chambers yesterday was focused on Matthew 6:33. That verse -- "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be yours as well" -- lies at the hinge point of my life. One evening in October, 1983, I sat in a tiny prayer chapel built by an order of Catholic nuns. One by one, in my heart and in the presence of Jesus, I brought out every love of my life and set them before him. My parents. Each of my siblings. The farm where I grew up. The girl I was dating at the time. Key friendships. Career ambitions. My sense of myself. One at a time, each was set before Jesus, and mentally / emotionally / spiritually I saw myself cutting the ribbon that tied my heart to each of those things. Snip. Snip. Snip. I sat on the stone floor with a bunch of severed ribbons tying my heart to -- to nothing at all, for the sake of Jesus only, Jesus alone. My prayer was, "Lord, now I have nothing -- you give me back only what you want me to have."

I wanted to spend my life for the sake of Jesus Christ and his kingdom. I wanted to give up all my smaller ambitions. I wanted to throw away every thing that was less than Jesus. That evening remains a defining point of my life, to this very day.

There have been so many echoes of that moment, so many times Jesus has called me back to that first love. At times, especially when he's called me to great risk, he's challenged me: "Are you turning away from that commitment?" He's asked me to do some tremendously hard things. Turn away from easy paths. Turn away from my own comfort and my own glory. Face up to my own brokenness and the brokenness of my life, my relationships. Speak the truth about that brokenness. Allow myself to be known, to be loved, to be treasured. Each echo, each turning point, has provided the opportunity to turn away from Jesus himself, or to turn toward him. There has been a very real choice at each turning. I can take the easy answer, the "right" answer, the appealing answer that will look good in the eyes of the world around me -- including, very often, the Christian world -- or I can have Jesus himself. And I have to say, not because I'm such a great person -- I'm not -- but because Jesus is so excellent, at each turning I've done my level best to pursue him. Nothing else comes close.

I don't believe I deserve any credit for staying faithful to him. He knows I've failed often enough, and my own brokenness has tainted every decision I've made along the way. But in each moment, as best I know how, I've had the opportunity to "seek first the kingdom of God." I've had the opportunity to discern kingdom possibilities in the mix of all that I could choose at any given moment.

I find myself these days staring out at the lake, staring up into the oak leaves, pondering where I am and how I got here. But looking back, there's never been a moment where I turned away from him, in spite of the people who have gotten up in my face asking how I could have missed God so badly. Every imperfect decision, every broken choice, every half-understood option, was weighed in the light of where I thought Jesus was calling. I think I understand the murderer, the persecutor, the arrogant Paul, a little better when he said, "I have lived my life before God in all good conscience" (Acts 23:1).

That's probably what Jesus himself meant when he talked about his kingdom being like a treasure hidden in a field, like one pearl of surpassingly great value. So many of Jesus' stories contain these imperfect anti-heroes. Maybe the guy making real estate deals, selling all he had to buy the field, was less than savory. Maybe the merchant fudged a little bit to be able to liquidate all his other goods in order to buy that pearl. Jesus himself, at the conclusion of one of the most unpleasant and confusing stories he ever told, said (Luke 17) that we should use worldly wealth -- "ungodly mammon" -- to make heavenly friends for ourselves. Maybe none of us really knows what Jesus is offering us at any given moment. He promises never to leave us, never to forsake us. He promises that in spite of the heartache, the journey will be worth it. He promises that if we surrender all for the sake of his kingdom, his all-surpassing love, revealed in so many profound, beautiful, excruciating ways, he will transform us into his image.

Hope is a funny thing. Christians are often guilty of tying our hope to an afterlife, pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by, and there's some biblical warrant for that, though not as much as we tell ourselves. I'm not saying there's not an afterlife, not at all, and I'm not saying that it won't be fantastic. I believe it will. But the Bible seems utterly focused on this existence, this life, far more than we often understand. Jesus himself says that those who give up comfort, relationships, respectability, and so much more will receive "a hundredfold now in this time ... and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10, emphasis added). I'm with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who talked of the "profound this-worldliness" of Christianity, with Wendell Berry whose vision of God sees him as "a great relisher of the world, its good grown immortal in his mind." When Jesus described the kingdom of God, little of what he said had anything to do with an afterlife. Read the gospels. Jesus was talking about relationships, the healing of brokenness, abundant life here and now. That's the kingdom he came to establish. That is the work into which he sends his people. Biblically speaking, hope is not an optimistic glass-half-full dreaminess that someday things will get better. Biblically speaking, hope says that because Jesus is risen from the dead, our brokenness can be healed; love is real; the truth is worth speaking; abundant life is possible. Here. Now. And that someday, God will bring these foretastes to a fulfillment that exceeds our wildest imaginings.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Pondering Community

I've been asked to write a 350 word piece for the local paper, introducing myself to the wider community and introducing the idea of "Life Groups" that we're working to develop these days. Last night I had the privilege of meeting again with those who will be forming the nucleus of these groups. What a joy to sit with people who are hungry for more, who long to grow deeper into Jesus themselves but to do that as part of a loving community, who long to see the New Testament's vision of the church lived out in life-giving ways! (It didn't hurt that we were in a beautiful home looking out at a lovely lake eating some of the best cookies I've ever tasted. But I was there for more than the cookies. Honest.) 

Below is a first draft of the piece I'll be submitting in the next couple days. I've gotten to that point where I've written and rewritten my initial thoughts and I need to let it sit for a while, then come back to it. 

Here it is: 

Hi! My name is Jeff Krogstad. Since last August, I’ve been on staff at The Open Door Christian Church, working as caretaker of our new Decision Hills campus and helping with the development of community life in this congregation.

We toss that word “community” around like a beach ball without digging into what it means. In the New Testament, though, Jesus was very intentional about people sharing life together. In his excellent book The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stark argues that the formation of home-sized communities was key to the growth of the movement Jesus began. These knots of people sharing life together transformed their participants from consumer-driven “clients” of the pagan religions that dominated the Roman world to deeply committed “congregations.” These communities transformed their neighborhoods and eventually the world.

Perhaps the opposite of “community” is loneliness, which seems to afflict us like a 21st century plague. We are more connected than ever before, and lonelier than ever. How is that possible? Truth is, so many of our connections don’t lead to true community where we are known and loved as we are, where our gifts find a voice, where we live in the life-giving relationships that were the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry. In contrast to the New Testament’s description of community, our high-tech individualism might well be the death of us.  

As The Open Door Christian Church grows, we want to be intentional about creating community. In the next year we’ll be implementing “Life Groups” -- mid-sized groups that meet in homes and try in multiple ways to bring the New Testament’s description of community into 21st century homes and lives, to build relationships that are life-giving and reflect Jesus’ love.

Where do you find community? Where are you deeply known, welcomed, loved? Who realistically recognizes the best and the worst of you, and still shares life with you? The New Testament is filled with this kind of community, of people bringing their real, messy lives into deep relationships rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Such a shared life is still at the heart of Christianity today.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Paying attention?

I'm having one of those days when there are so many ideas / thoughts / feels swirling around inside, and I struggle to make sense of it all. Not in a bad way, not at all -- this is good stuff, but I wonder sometimes whether there are really profound connections trying to be made in this mixture or if it's just a chaotic jumble that needs to be shoveled out to make room for good stuff. It's hard to tell.

So here are a few of the ingredients involved:

I went biking yesterday. First 20+ mile ride of the season, and it was fantastic. Beautiful ride combining roads and trails up to Sibley Park (a gem) and back through New London. I took pictures that in and of themselves add to the chaotic jumble / potential profundity. Approaching the park, I saw a doe and her twin yearling fawns cross the road in front of me. Rode through the woods on a park trail, pausing to glance at plaques that identified the differences between red oak and burr oak and lots of other flora. Got to the interpretive center and found all kinds of delightful stuff, most notably a clear and coherent timeline of glaciation through this part of the world and how it formed the landscape I live in. Here's the one picture I took inside the interpretive center:



I biked around for a while exploring the park, but there's a lot more to see there than I had time or stamina to enjoy. I'll be back. As I was leaving, I found another plaque that I'd been watching for, knowing there was some info at the park about this topic:


As I was headed back south and east toward home, near the same spot I'd see the doe and fawns on my way in, another deer was grazing along the road. I thought, how cool! I'll stop and take a picture because I don't know how close she'll let me get!


She actually let me get pretty close. This deer is obviously acclimated to living in a state park where people on bicycles are a normal part of life, even when they almost capsize while trying to juggle a phone and take a picture while pedaling past. She was completely unfazed.


 So I shook my head about wild animals that aren't wild, and headed for home. Stopped to rescue a painted turtle crossing the paved road and got embroiled in a philosophical conversation with the turtle about why the swamp on the north side was better than the swamp on the south side, so much so that it was worth risking messy death under the wheels of a passing vehicle. He declined to explain, and I was so caught up in the conversation I completely forgot to take a picture of him. I left him on the north side of the road, facing downhill toward the water, hoping he'll have the good sense to keep going that direction rather than climbing back up on the pavement.

I turned eastward, wondering if I'm any smarter than that turtle. And a short way from the park, the deer, the turtle, the memory of oxcarts, just by way of contrast, people are building enormous houses and encouraging others to do the same:


I got home last night and sat for a while on the end of my dock, pondering the sunset and watching the minnows do their regular evening dance, jumping out of the water just at the edge of your eyesight, dancing on their tails for a fractional moment, falling back into the water and making tiny ripples in the lake. I wonder -- are they leaping out of fear? hunger? ecstasy? frustration? Related or unrelated, a half dozen bass cruised back and forth in the water like cool teenagers at the mall. A pair of great blue herons performed an acrobatic mid-course correction and swept down to take up station on the point at the north end of my bay. 

As I walked up from the dock, deer grazed in my front lawn. They were thoroughly offended by my intrusion and acted much more like wild deer, though they're still pretty acclimated to my presence. They didn't, after all, run off into the woods in a panic, but jogged off, then stood at a distance huffing and snorting and stamping, and when I went inside they quickly came back to resume their meal as the light faded and the stars came out. 

This morning as I stumbled around with my first cup of coffee in hand I glanced down in the meadow and saw -- for the first time since I moved here last August -- a skunk. I've caught a whiff of them a couple times (which I don't mind -- it reminds me of using skunk scent as a cover while deer hunting up at the farm where I grew up -- good memories of chill November mornings), but I haven't seen them. And this one was a looker. If there are skunk models, this one belongs on the red carpet in front of the paparazzi. Larger than most, with a beautiful plume of a tail held up like a banner, graceful black and white streaks trailing behind as she confidently worked her way across the grass and up into the woods. 

After coffee and time talking with God in my recliner-of-meeting (more on that momentarily) I went out and set up an old drag -- a harrow, really -- that I found last fall back in the brush. I hooked it up to the 4-wheeler and spent an hour dragging a patch of bare dirt where we're going to plant grass seed this week and pray for rain. The bare dirt lies over the area where we mined sand and gravel last fall to create a parking lot next to our worship center. That glaciation I mentioned before left huge deposits of sand and gravel all through this area, and we were able to dig out enough from that hill to build a sub-layer in our new parking area. Then we took the topsoil we'd removed from that parking area and covered over the pit at the top of the hill. Dragging and leveling it this morning is the penultimate step in creating a beautiful patch of lawn. 


Thus far you might be thinking I'm just writing a scattered journal of the last 24 hours or so, and you might be right. But what's got me pondering this morning is Oswald Chambers' reflection in My Utmost for His Highest

You must keep yourself fit to let the life of the Son of God be manifested, and you cannot keep yourself fit if you give way to self-pity. Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is. The thing that ought to make the heart beat is a new way of manifesting the Son of God. It is one thing to choose the disagreeable, and another thing to go into the disagreeable by God’s engineering. If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.Keep your soul fit to manifest the life of the Son of God. Never live on memories; let the word of God be always living and active in you. 
If Oswald is right, and God engineers our circumstances (and I believe he does), then none of the last 24 hours is an accident. There are enormous questions of stewardship, delight, engagement, relationship, vocation, dependence, sabbath, and so much more involved in all these things. Here are a few of the many questions sprouting like ferns in my mind: 
  • What does it mean, this fascination rumbling in me with the oxcarts that plodded their way from Winnipeg to St. Paul and back, some wandering through this Decision Hills campus? Why do they intrigue me so much, and is God saying something in that? What stewardship is involved in the traces of those old roadways from the 1800's that are still visible on this property?
  • Why am I wired such that the minnows, the deer, the skunk, the trees, the ferns are so life-giving to me? Is everyone really, deep down, like this, or is it just me? Why is too much concrete like kryptonite to my soul?
  • At 52 years of age now, what does it mean to steward my body well? I thrill to be able to make a 20 mile bike ride on a whim, and I look forward to more such this summer. Are there other things in my body-management that I'm missing? How to live in such a way that I'm not doing myself damage, that I'm maximizing the life given to me?
  • I am the servant of a church that owns these 70 acres, and I hear tons of opinions about how to steward it. How to balance the urge toward property development with the longing to keep wildness, if not wilderness, intact here on this 70+ acres I oversee? 
  • What does Christian faith have to say to those who are deeply engaged with the earth -- the man who has no desire to travel to Mexico to build an orphanage, whose faith drives him not to accost a neighbor about matters of heaven and hell, but rather to seek the deep satisfaction of growing things, of crops well tended, of rain at the right times, of animals nurtured not exploited? Is the work of Wendell Berry and others like him an aspect of Christianity we dismiss at our peril?
  • What is God saying to me as I look at the tracks he's left in my own history? I grew up a few miles east of the old Pembina oxcart trail, still visible in aerial photos of the fields southeast of Fertile. I spent my youth learning to work the soil, to tend the cattle in the heat of summer and the brutal cold of winter. The realities of that upbringing shape my days still. What of the intertwined extended family that imparted faith to me at Faaberg Lutheran Church? Why is this business of living with deer and skunks so gut-level important to me, so much so that the collection of essays, the book manuscript is still churning in the bowels of my computer and I can't for the life of me figure out what to do with it? Why am I fascinated with the life happening just below the surface of the lake? And what about that deep, deep sense that all of this belongs in the sphere of the church, not the church of chairs and new carpet and seminaries and taking attendance, but rather the church that is knots of people following Jesus into each other's homes and lives, caring for their neighbors and communities, knowing each others' children and allergies and heartaches and hopes? 
  • In all of this, what is my voice and what word am I called to speak, to write, to pray?
I am beset this morning with a sense that I'm caught up in the midst of something God is saying, God is engineering, and I don't want to miss it. I don't want to blithely, ignorantly go my way. How many shepherds were working the Sinai in 1400 BC -- but only Moses noticed that the bush was not burning up. How long did he have to watch to figure that out? My guess is that Moses was the sort of guy who was paying attention, and so he noticed when God was engineering his circumstances. 









Thursday, May 10, 2018

Éowyn

As the father of two daughters, and for a variety of other reasons, I feel strongly about female characters in literature. I've mentioned before on this blog that I was challenged some months ago by a friend's comment that it's very hard to find female characters who are both strong and tender. It's been a good filter for me as I read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy this time through. There are few strong female characters in LOTR, sadly. I don't think J.R.R. Tolkien was any kind of a misogynist -- far from it -- but he was perhaps bound by his times, as are we all, and all the leading roles in his story fall to males.

The remainder of this post will be down in the weeds of Tolkien's work, assuming the reader has at least a passing familiarity with the various characters, or else is inordinately patient and dedicated to reading this for other reasons. At any rate, here we go ...

Having admitted Tolkien's perhaps unintentional bias toward males as leading characters, however, there are a few strong female characters to be acknowledged. Galadriel is perhaps the easiest to remember, and digging deep into the backstory of LOTR she has a long and important history, if undeveloped. Though by the time of LOTR she is long past, Luthien is another strong female character, notable for the way Aragorn speaks of her as he tells the tale of Beren and Luthien Tinúviel to the hobbits one dark evening on Weathertop. Christopher Tolkien has done all fans a service by bringing into print the deeper story of Beren and Luthien in the last few years, which shapes and deepens her character significantly. Even Rosie Cotton, though she comes into the story only at its end, is perhaps evidence that Tolkien understood both the strength and tenderness of his female characters. And of course Arwen, though she keeps mostly to the shadows in LOTR, plays an important role. One of the few things I really appreciated about Peter Jackson's version of the story in film is how he wrapped Glorfindel, an elf-lord of Elrond's house, into the character of Arwen for the sake of the movie, giving her depth and strength beyond what she has in the books themselves.

But this last time through the trilogy, I was so impressed with the way Tolkien himself wrote the character of Éowyn, who chafes at traditional roles, who finds creative and when necessary crafty ways to live out her strength and her love, and who is without question valiant in leadership and in battle. The scene in which she stands over the fallen body of Théoden and defends him as though she is staked to the ground next to him, and in her courage she helps to kill the leader of the Nazgul, at great cost to herself -- this may be the single boldest individual action in the entire story. At the same time, she exhibits an affection and a tenderness toward her uncle, King Théoden, and a deep love for her brother Éomer, as well as a passionate infatuation with Aragorn and eventually, a deep and abiding love for Faramir. She is certainly the most fully developed female character in the written text of LOTR.

Here are a few excerpts -- all too brief, sadly -- showing the development of Éowyn's character:

"'Go, Éowyn, sister-daughter,' said the old king. 'The time for fear is past.'
The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings." (The Two Towers, 152)

"'Behold, I go forth, and it is likely to be my last riding,' said Théoden. 'I have no child. Théodred my son is slain. I name Éomer my sister-son to be my heir. If neither of us return, then choose a new lord as you will. But to someone I must now entrust my people that I leave behind, to rule them in my place. Which of you will stay?' No man spoke. 'Is there none whom you would name? In whom do my people trust?'
'In the House of Eorl,' answered Háma. 
'But Éomer I cannot spare, nor would he stay,' said the king, 'and he is the last of that House.'
'I said not Éomer,' answered Háma. 'And he is not the last. There is Éowyn, daughter of Éomund, his sister. She is fearless and high-hearted. All love her. Let her be as lord to the Éorlingas while we are gone.'
'It shall be so,' said Théoden. 'Let the heralds announce to the folk that the Lady Éowyn will lead them!'" (The Two Towers, 162-63)

But as Aragorn came to the booth where he was to lodge with Legolas and Gimli, and his companions had gone in, there came the Lady Éowyn after him and called to him. He turned and saw her as a glimmer in the night, for she was clad in white; but her eyes were on fire. 
'Aragorn,' she said, 'why will you go on this deadly road?'
'Because I must,' he said. 'Only so can I see any hope of doing my part in the war against Sauron. I do not choose paths of peril, Éowyn. Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.'
For a while she was silent, as if pondering what this might mean. Then suddenly she laid her hand on his arm. 'You are a stern lord and resolute,' she said; 'and thus do men win renown.' She paused. 'Lord,' she said, 'if you must go, then let me ride in your following. For I am weary of skulking in the hills, and wish to face peril and battle.' 
'Your duty is with your people,' he answered.
'Too often have I heard of duty,' she cried. 'But am I not of the House of Eorl, a shieldmaiden and not a dry-nurse? I have waited on faltering feet long enough. Since they falter no longer, it seems, may I not now spend my life as I will?'
'Few may do that with honour,' he answered. 'But as for you, lady: did you not accept the charge to govern your people until their lord's return? If you had not been chosen, then some marshal or captain would have been set in the same place, and he could not ride away from his charge, were he weary of it or no.' 
'Shall I always be chosen?' she said bitterly. 'Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?'
'A time may come soon,' said he, 'when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defense of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.'
And she answered, 'All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.'
'What do you fear, lady?' he asked. 
'A cage,' she said. 'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.' (Return of the King, 67-68)

(Eowyn disguises herself as the soldier Dernhelm and rides in Théoden's company to the battle before the city of Minas Tirith, where Théoden himself is struck down by the lord of the Nazgul, a wraith riding on a flying creature of some kind -- think maybe a pterodactyl. Meriadoc the hobbit -- Merry -- is struck to the ground and the following scene is told from his point of view.)

Then out of the blackness in his mind he thought that he heard Dernhelm speaking; yet now the voice seemed strange, recalling some other voice that he had known. 
'Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!'
A cold voice answered, 'Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'
A sword rang as it was drawn. 'Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.'
'Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!'
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.'
...
Suddenly the great beast beat its hideous wings, and the wind of them was foul. Again it leaped into the air, and then swiftly fell down upon Éowyn, shrieking, striking with beak and claw.
Still she did not blench; maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed in ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise. (Return of the King, 143)

(After the defeat of Sauron, Éowyn is still in Minas Tirith, recovering from her wounds, in the Houses of Healing with Faramir, the Steward of the City.)
And Éowyn looked at Faramir long and steadily, and Faramir said: 'Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn! But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Éowyn, do you not love me?'
Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.
'I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, she said, 'and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in songs of slaying. I will be a healer and love all things that grow and are not barren.' And again she looked at Faramir. 'No longer do I desire to be a queen,' she said. 
Then Faramir laughed merrily. 'That is well,' he said; 'for I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.' (Return of the King, 299-300)

Congratulations on getting this far. These few quotes demonstrate that Tolkien invested a lot of energy in developing Éowyn as a strong character, certainly. I suppose a person could make an argument that she is not very tender, but when we first meet her she is quite tender in her care for Théoden, even though his dotage frustrates her. And at the end of the story, the tenderness that grows between her and Faramir (as noted above, and in other quotes not included here) seems to indicate that Tolkien saw her as a woman who is both strong and affectionate, both tender and courageous.

It was fun to read this story again and see her in greater depth, to pay attention to her with new eyes. She's not a perfect role model, of course, but given the impact Tolkien's LOTR still has, it's encouraging to find a female character with such depth, grace, and strength.




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Who knew?

Here's an acting opportunity I never knew existed. Sounds like fun, but I don't think I'll drive to Camp Ripley just for mileage reimbursement. Still ...



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The view from here

I am captivated this morning by the change of seasons. Sitting looking out my window westward as I sip my coffee and read scripture (Psalm 30 this morning) and Oswald Chambers (his reflection today is just outstanding) and listening to the loons on the south end of the lake -- watching the first few raindrops coming down on increasingly green grass and ruminating on the fact that my birds don't seem quite so dependent on the feeder anymore, but it's still such a delight to see them flying in and out of view.

I'm struck by the changes. Just a few short weeks ago we had a foot of snow. There's a life-filled excitement in the woods these days. Yesterday I was watching three turkeys (the first turkeys I've seen here in six months) and several deer back on the trails in my woods. I'm eagerly waiting in the next few weeks for the appearance of new fawns. Because the winter has been relatively non-stressful from the deer's perspective, I expect to see lots of twins and maybe even triplets. Trees are leafing out and flowers are peeking out of the ground. It's a gorgeous time of year.

Pay attention. God is at work all around, and inside. I have to confess that over the last year and a half, too many times I've doubted that God is present and working. But those are momentary lapses, plunges into the abyss of self-pity. Fact: He is working for good purposes. He is keeping his promises. Here's a quick excerpt from Chambers this morning: "Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but a robust vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot understand what He is doing, but you know Him."