3.08.2017

Five Things - no. 3

I'm on Spring Break now, blessedly, and even though I'll still be doing homework, I'm excited anyway.  I'm going to read, and catch up on movies, and sleep in.  Today, I wanted to talk about some things I've been enjoying/loving recently.

First up, a new podcast called The Allusionist.  It's a podcast in the Radiotopia network, and I absolutely love it.  It's all about words and the histories of words, and the science of language and sounds.  This semester I'm taking an intro to linguistics class, and while the class isn't my favorite thing ever, I'm seeing a lot of connections between what's talked about in class and on the podcast.  If you're a fan of words, check out The Allusionist.  The host's sublime British accent doesn't hurt either.  And while you're at it, take a listen to the other podcasts in the Radiotopia family – the other podcasts are great, too.  Subscribe to The Allusionist on iTunes here.
The next thing I have to talk about is a blog, or more specifically a single blog post that took my breath away when I read it.  Rebecca Reynolds is a friend of The Rabbit Room, Andrew and Pete Peterson's website which is also a new discovery I totally love.  Anyway, somehow I started following her writing website, and I love everything she writes.  Check it out.

I'm taking a literary interpretation class this semester that I am completely and absolutely loving.  I have a great professor, and I just love everything about the class.  The writing is a challenge which I am really enjoying, and all the class discussion about what we're reading is super fun.  I would like to do a post at some point about all the things we're reading/have read, mostly for myself, because I want to remember it.  But yeah, totally loving that class, and kind of sad that it's already half over.

The last three or four weeks, I haven't had any social media on my phone.  I originally did so because I had a couple super busy weeks and I wanted to make sure I was being as productive as possible, but I don't find myself wanting it all back.  I've really, really enjoyed not having it on my phone.  Instagram was my biggest time waster by far, and Twitter is so overtly negative recently it seems, that I grew tired of it all.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love Twitter and Instagram, but I am loving this break and I've decided to continue the "fast" through Lent.  My mind just seems quieter, which isexpected, I guess, but I didn't realize how much I would love being free of that noise.  If you've never totally removed social media from your phone/desktop, I highly encourage you to try it out for a while.

The final thing I want to mention is a book I've finally cracked open this week.  I heard about someone reading this book over Advent, and that inspired me to read it over Lent.  The book is Upstream by Mary Oliver.  It's an essay collection, and it is incredible and breathtaking.  At this rate, I'll be underlining the whole book.  Here's a line I love:
"Something is wrong, I know it, if I don't keep my attention on eternity.  May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.  May I stay forever in the stream.  May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect." – Mary Oliver
I highly, highly recommend this collection.  Oliver is one of my favorite poets of all time, and these essays are beautiful and startling.  And they make for good Lent reading.

That's everything.  I hope you check some of these things out for yourself and have a great week!

2.16.2017

On Lord of the Rings

I'm two thirds through my third re-read of Lord of the Rings, per my tradition of re-reading the series at the beginning of every new year, and I've been taking notes on all the things that stand out to my this time around on the notes app on my phone.  This all is taking me much longer than last year, mostly because February is going way way way too fast for my to-do list and deadlines are approaching much too quickly.  College is trying to kill me, I'm convinced.

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of those thoughts I've accumulated about LOTR today, just as they are in the app, and I hope they will encourage you to read the series whether it's your first time or 26th.

1/7/17
I'm halfway through The Fellowship and one thing's jumped out at me this time through so far.  Good stories of the past are important, not only to share around the fire in the middle of the wilderness, but to repeat in the middle of the worst.  To chant over and over with the rest and hold onto the hope in all of them.  So many times Aragorn or Sam or another has recounted a tale of bravery in the dark or to bind up hearts when the cold clench of evil seems so near.  Story is important to everyone, it seems, in LOTR.  And not made up stories, but real stories of history long forgotten.  I love that. 

1/14/17
A theme Tolkien really hits on in LOTR is the idea of humanness vs. inhumanness: the state of being either human or not and most of his characters fall somewhere on either side.  The Nazgûl, for example, were once men, but because of their infatuation  with the Ring, they eventually lost that humanity completely.  The hobbits and the men are more human, perhaps the most human, but different, and the elves are more-than-human, somehow otherworldly.  And it's fascinating how Tolkien crafts these characters and tells their stories as if they're on this continuous plane and they are either becoming more or less human all the time.  Lewis talks about humans in our world the same way.  We are all either going one way or the other; we're either becoming something altogether lovely or altogether horrible.  And humanness is not physical, it doesn't follow that we appear differently – though that is certainly the case with say, the orcs – it's that we are either going back to the way God first created us at the dawn of time, or we are becoming ourselves like the angel-turned-animal in the Garden.  From a perfect being to one of inhuman evil. 

1/15/17
I'm noticing this theme of returning in LOTR, more so than I have in the past.  And not only regarding the story of Aragorn, but with so many others: Gandalf, Theoden, the hobbits.  There's talk of exile, and going and returning and it's all so irresistibly reminiscent of the return of Christ.

1/21/17
Ah, what a picture of the Gospel and the battle for man's heart.  Why accepting the gift of salvation is so bloody hard, but the most desperate need. (pg. 568)

Also, the Ents are my favorite.  The first couple times through this book, I thought them boring, but they've got a wisdom more than knowledge that runs true as their roots, and maybe there's something to their tree-ness, something there for us.  A tree planted by the river will not fail to bring forth fruit.  They are never hasty, always thinking, but ready as ever to fight for the good.  Their roots run deep in goodness and truth. 🌳🌲🌳🌲

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." – Haldir, The Fellowship of the Ring

"Yet he felt in his heart that Faramir, though he was much like his brother in looks, was a man less self-regarding, both sterner and wiser."  So many characters in LOTR are described as being stern, not in a derogatory way at all, but as something good.  And I think that should be a trait of a Christian.  There should be a sort of solemn seriousness about us beside that subterranean river of joy; a consciousness of the grief of the Father and the pain of the world – a quiet awareness of the brokenness that was mended at such a price. (650)


1.03.2017

My 2017 Goals


I'm interrupting my annual re-read of The Lord of the Rings to talk about my goals for 2017, in the last week before my second semester of school begins.  Setting these goals always makes me excited and expectant and I'm excited to talk about them all today.

The last couple years I've set yearly goals; they're less like resolutions and more often than not, they become the theme of the next twelve months of my life.  Often these goals become part of my life in a permanent way, and rather than becoming something to tick off every month, they subconsciously work their way into my everyday life.

For as long as I've set yearly goals, my primary goal has been to be brave.  That goal has manifested itself differently each year, and as I continue to practice it, I hope it will become sort of the soundtrack to my life.  This year, in the same way, the goals I have set all mirror that theme – to be brave – just not in so many words.  First, though, the practical ones.

  • Intentionally read: carve out time to read, make it a priority, and always. have. a. book.
  • Budget intentionally: have a purpose, have a plan, and stick to it.
  • Become consistent in daily prayer.
  • Wake up at a time that allows for maximum productivity and minimum stress.
  • Continue to say 'yes' to God, to accept 'no' and be brave – in the small stuff, too.
  • Stay in wonder.
  • Practice carpe Deum (seize God).
The crowning goal this year is that final one – Carpe Deum.  I read about this idea in a book last year (Holy is the Day by Carolyn Weber) and it has stuck with me since.  I want to seize God in the small stuff, I want to hear his still small voice and follow wherever He leads.

And those are my 2017 goals.  Some good practical goals for less stress and more focus, and some big, brave ones that I hope will flavor everything I do this year.  When I reach this point next year, I hope I'll still be attune to the song of bravery and grace and wonder that He sings over me.