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The Wisdom of Tolkien

Continuing the "month o' poetry," here's another gem I love. From "The Lord of the Rings":

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Somehow it's both stirring and comforting.


Dealing with Doubt

Have you ever had one of those moments when you said you'd do something you were invited to, and later, you regretted accepting? Like, early in the morning, when you could be sleeping? But then you got up anyway, and even through your sleepiness, you realized there was a Reason you were supposed to go to that thing?

That happened to me today.

I went to church with my parents--ironically, not by their invitation, but a friend who really only asked casually, "Will you be going?" For some reason, I said yes.

They had a guest speaker this morning, and it was when he got up to preach that I realized Why I Was There.

We had Easter (we call it "Resurrection") Sunday last week. I went to my parent's church then, also, but I was really cranky and in a bad mood that morning. But I remember standing there last week, reading the apostle's creed in unison with everyone, and thinking, "Do I really believe this?"
Because from the outside, it sounds kind of absurd. Truth be told, I've never really been on the outside of it. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. So I took a step back last Sunday, and asked myself, "Do I believe this?"

And the answer was Yes.

Yes, I believe it all. God, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection , the Holy Spirit, Heaven, all of it. It's too integral for me to think of it as untrue. It's my Life.

But lately...well, quite frankly, I've been better. If you're one of those few souls who regularly read this blog, maybe you've noticed it. I try to be optimistic (but honest) in my posts, but lately, I've really been wrestling. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't been struggling somewhat with my faith. The thing is, though, I don't doubt whether God exists. I don't doubt that Jesus came, died, and rose again.

When I doubt, it's a nagging frustration--a feeling that somehow, God is holding out on me. I doubt his heart. I doubt His goodness, that He cares about me.

When I say it like that, it almost sounds worse than doubting His existence. Because haven't I seen His work in my life time & time again? Hasn't He provided for me? Led me, taught me, comforted me? I'm as bad as the Israelites of the Old Testament, forgetting the great rescues & victories God provided, and turning to idols to meet their needs.

So, this morning: the speaker, a professor at Geneva, starts speaking about Thomas the disciple and his doubt. Something clicks, and I know I need to pay attention. I know this is why I've forsaken my bed and shown up. Doubt is something we all face, to varying degrees. We give Thomas a bad rap, because he didn't take the rest of the disciples' word for it that Jesus was alive. But didn't they all wrestle with doubt those first couple days? Resurrection seemed impossible, despite all the miracles they'd seen. He'd given them every reason to expect it--even raised people from the dead right in front of them. They still couldn't see it.

I'm no different. I've been blinded by my own circumstances once again. And, I've grown cynical and somewhat bitter lately.

In an effort to combat the hardening of my heart, I've turned once again to the writings of John Eldredge, which have steadied and softened my heart many, many times over the past decade. I picked up "Desire" (formerly titled "The Journey of Desire") and have been rereading it the past week. And once again, he's nailed me. Out of my frustration, I have been trying to bury my desires and kill my heart, because I just can't stand to be disappointed any more. But that doesn't work. Desire won't be denied; and it begins to crop up in other areas if we don't learn how to live with it. And we must, because God made us to desire--but He also made us so that our desires are only ultimately fulfilled in Him.

Life, Eldredge says, is both a Battle and a Journey.

I've been feeling the battle part lately. But instead of fighting back, I've been hunkered down in a foxhole, trying to ignore the fire raining down all around me.

I don't have it figured out yet. I'm not suddenly "all better." In fact, if anything, I've been more aware of own humble state lately. I've been a Christian for so long that extraordinary things seem ordinary to me. My senses are becoming dull. My heart's grown hard. I've been looking to other things to fill me. But no more. Without wanting to sound ultra-Christiany about it (as if an ultra-Christian would admit to doubting like this anyway!), I need to turn back to God. That sounds so religious, it almost puts me off. But...I can't delay this any longer.

So, I'm on a journey now--to get my heart back. Here I go.


A Psalm of Life

So, Wendy tells me that April is National Poetry Month. Since I have little to blog about, aside from Lost, I will steal/copy/borrow/recycle an idea from Wendy's blog and share with you my favorite poem.

I found it in a High School English book from 1901 (seriously!) and just fell in love with it. It speaks to many of my favorite themes. I've tried to memorize it, but I always seem to forget a stanza. The last three were quoted by the minister at my Grandma Jean's memorial service.

A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long and Time is fleeting,
And out hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act--act in the living Present!
Heart within and God o'rehead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time;--

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.