Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Are Your Secrets

Thanks for Ray Ortlund for posting this:

O. Hobart Mowrer, the psychologist, set himself to understand more deeply our hollowed-out emotional lives.  He noted that, commonly, when we perform a good deed, we advertise it, display it, draw attention to it, at least hint at it, hoping to collect on the emotional credit of it then and there.  But when we do something cheap, evil or stupid, we hide it, deny it, minimize it.  But the emotional discredit from that stays with us and even accumulates with each further hypocrisy.  This is how we make ourselves chronically bankrupt in conscience and heart.  Our lives are required of us, and we are found wanting.  No felt “net worth.”  Lost confidence, pizzazz.  Our positive energies are depleted by fugitive concealing and pretending.

Then Mowrer wondered, what if we reversed our strategy?  What if we spent our lives admitting our weaknesses, owning up to our failures, naming our idiot-moments, confessing our follies, errors and debts, while also hiding away from everyone’s view our smart ideas, heroic sacrifices, kind deeds, charities and virtues?  What if, instead of throwing back at the other guy his worst failure while trotting out our best moment, we put up our worst against his best?  What would happen then?  Our hearts might start filling up.

He entitled his essay “You are your secrets.”  It is in his book The New Group Therapy (New York, 1964), pages 65-71.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. . . . Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1, 4).

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Rivers of Grace Flowing Back to the Fountain-Head

As the ocean…is the source of all rivers and fountains, so is our Lord Jesus Christ the Well-Spring of all virtue and knowledge.

For who but the “King of Glory” can be the “Lord of Virtues”? And, according to the Canticle of Anna, the same Lord is “the God of knowledge”.

Purity of body, industry of the heart, rectitude of will – all flow from this Divine Fountain.

Yet not such graces only. Every intellectual endowment, every gift of eloquence, every pleasing disposition, must also be ascribed to the same Source.

Thence is derived every word of wisdom and all knowledge, from Him, namely, “in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden”.

What, I ask, are chaste thoughts, just judgments, holy desires, but so many rivulets from the Divine Spring?

Now, if the currents of natural water are ceaselessly pouring themselves back again into the sea through secret and subterranean channels, in order to return once more to us with unwearied service, for the satisfaction of our sight and supply of our necessities;

Why should not the spiritual streams, also, revert to their Source without interruption or diminution, so that they may revisit and irrigate anew the plains of our souls?

Therefore, let the rivers of grace flow back to the Fountain-Head, that they may again descend upon us.

Let the heavenly tide re-seek its Origin that the earth may be watered with a more generous inundation.

Do you ask how this is to be done? The Apostle tells you when he says, “In all things be giving thanks”.

Whatever wisdom, whatever virtue you believe yourselves to possess, attribute it all to Christ, Who is the Wisdom and the Knowledge of God.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 13.

Thanks to the Enlarging the Heart Blog.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

After Despair's Storm

Sometimes to express the heart the propositional genres fall too flat and narrow. In those times poetry is the language of the heart unveiled.

After Despair’s storm,
Quiet emptiness, a purged countryside.
Then, slowly, surely, forming and filling,
Heaven’s kiss.

Love awakened
Intimacy renewed
Purpose realized
Glory unveiled
Wounds healed
Brokenness made whole
God revealed face to face.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Anduril: Flame of the West

A Symbol of Broken and Reforged Strength

(A Reflection on the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

The sword of Elendil, father of Isiuldur was originally called Narsil. It was broken into shards by Sauron, the great enemy of Middle Earth. Yet, even still broken, it was able to cut the ring from the evil one’s finger and send him into bodiless exile. Though this was a great victory, it was tarnished by the subsequent fall of Isiuldur into darkness through his lust for the power that the ring possessed. The ring conquered Isiuldur’s heart through his own lust for power.

Many thousands of years later, Aragorn son of Arathorn was Isiuldur’s last remaining descendant, lone heir to the throne of Gondor. Though he possessed great power as a Ranger (named Strider) in fighting evil and defending the weak, his fear of repeating his father’s failures (Isiuldur) kept him from assuming power over Gondor. Though he was a powerful warrior, he was also a broken man, choosing exile over the trappings of power. It was not until Middle Earth’s need was dire that he answered the call to assume kingship. Instrumental to his decision was the reforging of the shards of Narsil into a new sword by Elrond, renamed Anduril. The inscription on the blade reads:

I am Anduril who was Narsil, the sword of Elendil;

Let the thralls of Mordor flee me.

The sword is symbolic of Strider becoming Aragorn, the Ranger becoming the King - the journey of a broken warrior into reforged strength-and it is my journey too.

More from:

Anduril was the sword of Aragorn. It was forged from the shards of Elendil's sword, Narsil. Narsil was made in the First Age by Telchar, the most renowned of the Dwarf-smiths of Nogrod in the Blue Mountains. The blade shone with the light of the Sun and the Moon. Nothing is known about the sword's original owner or its early history. Narsil became the sword of Elendil, who escaped the downfall of Numenor and founded the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor in Middle-earth. Elendil wielded Narsil during the War of the Last Alliance, and the sword filled Sauron's forces with fear.

At the end of the war in 3441 of the Second Age, Sauron emerged from Barad-dur and fought with Elendil and Gil-galad. The two leaders of the Alliance were slain and Sauron was cast down. As Elendil fell, the blade of Narsil was broken into two pieces about a foot from the hilt and its light was extinguished. Elendil's son Isildur took up the hilt and with the shard of Narsil's blade he cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand, and Sauron's spirit fled from his body and went into hiding for many years.

Isildur kept the Ring and the shards of Narsil. Near the Gladden Fields in the year 2 of the Third Age, Isildur and his men were attacked by Orcs. Isildur entrusted the shards of Narsil to his esquire Ohtar and told him to save it at all costs. Ohtar and a companion fled, while Isildur and all but one other of his men were slain.

In the year 3, Ohtar brought the shards of Narsil to Isildur's only surviving son Valandil in Rivendell and they became a cherished heirloom of the heirs of Isildur. Elrond foretold that the sword would not be reforged until the One Ring was found and Sauron returned. When the North-kingdom ended and the Dunedain became a wandering people, the shards of Narsil were kept at Rivendell along with the other heirlooms of the House of Isildur.

Aragorn received the shards of Narsil at the age of 20 in 2951. At that time, Elrond told Aragorn of his heritage as the heir of Isildur. Aragorn bore the shards of Narsil in a sheath as he travelled throughout Middle-earth.

Aragorn revealed Narsil to Frodo Baggins when they met at the Prancing Pony on September 29, 3018. Frodo had received a letter from Gandalf that included a poem written by Bilbo Baggins mentioning the broken sword.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

The Fellowship of the Ring: "Strider," p. 182

At the Council of Elrond on October 25, Aragorn again brought out the shards of Narsil after Boromir of Gondor told of the dream that had brought him to Rivendell: "Seek for the Sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells..." (FotR, p. 259) Aragorn believed that the dream was a summons for him to bring the sword of Elendil back to Minas Tirith.

The sword was reforged by the Elvish smiths and it shone with the light of the Sun and the Moon once more. The blade was engraved with a rayed Sun and a crescent Moon with seven stars between them and many runes were written around them. Aragorn named the sword Anduril, the Flame of the West.

Anduril was the only weapon that Aragorn bore when he set out with the Fellowship of the Ring on December 25. In Moria on January 15, 3019, he used the blade to cleave the helmet of an Orc-chieftain who attacked Frodo with a spear.

When the Fellowship left Lothlorien on February 16, Galadriel gave Aragorn a sheath made especially for Anduril. The sword's name and lineage were written on it in Elven runes formed out of many gems and it was overlaid with flowers and leaves wrought of silver and gold. The sheath had the special property of protecting the blade that was drawn from it from being stained or broken in battle.

In Rohan on February 30, Aragorn revealed Anduril and his identity as Isildur's heir to Eomer, who was awed and cast down his eyes. Eomer agreed to help Aragorn, and he hoped that they would soon draw swords together.

When Aragorn arrived at Meduseld, he was reluctant to leave Anduril at the door of King Theoden's hall but at last he agreed to do so.

At the Battle of Helm's Deep on the night of March 3-4, Aragorn drew Anduril and Eomer unsheathed his sword Guthwine and they fought side by side. The Men of Rohan were inspired to see the sword that had been broken wielded in battle and their enemies were dismayed.

Aragorn looked into the palantir of Orthanc on March 6 and he showed Sauron that the sword that had cut the Ring from his hand had been forged anew, causing the Dark Lord to have doubt. Aragorn brought the sword of Elendil to Minas Tirith on March 15, arriving in the Corsairs' ships during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He led his reinforcements onto the battlefield and Anduril gleamed like fire kindled anew and it proved as deadly as Narsil of old.

After the Captains of the West decided to march to the Black Gate of Mordor to give Frodo time to complete his quest, Aragorn said that Anduril would not be sheathed until the last battle was fought. He wielded Anduril against the forces of Sauron in the Battle of the Morannon until the Ring was destroyed and the realm of Sauron was ended.

Names & Etymology:
Narsil is composed of nar meaning "fire" and thil meaning "white light." These same elements are found in Anar - the Sun - and Isil (Quenya) or Ithil (Sindarin) - the Moon. Narsil was said to shine with the light of the Sun and the Moon.

Andúril means "Flame of the West." It is derived from andúnë meaning "sunset, west" and ril meaning "brilliance."

Also called the Blade that was Broken, the Sword that was Broken, the Sword of Elendil, and the Flame of the West.

The Fellowship of the Ring: "Strider," p. 182-84; "The Council of Elrond," p. 256-62; "The Ring Goes South," p. 289-90, 292; "A Journey in the Dark," p. 312; "The Bridge of Khazad-dum," p. 338-39; "Farewell to Lorien," p. 384, 391
The Two Towers: "The Riders of Rohan," p. 36, 40, 42; "The White Rider," p. 98; "The King of the Golden Hall," p. 114-15; "Helm's Deep," p. 139-43
The Return of the King: "The Passing of the Grey Company," p. 53-54; "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 123; "The Last Debate," p. 158
Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings: "The North-kingdom and the Dunedain," p. 323; "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen," p. 338
The Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 294-96, 303; "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entries for andúnë, nar, ril, and sil
Unfinished Tales: "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," p. 272-73, 275
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter #347

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Embodying Lament

My heart has always been captured by the biblical scene of David and all his officials, mighty men and servants fleeing Jerusalem from Absalom's rebellion (2 Samuel 15:23-16:23). Listen to this description and imagine it:

"The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the desert. . . . David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up." (2 Sam 15:23, 30 NIV)

A few comments:
- The entire countryside was weeping and wailing, as if the creation itself joins in mourning. David and his men embodied the genre of lament. Their most honest expression of sadness found its home in lament, and creation joined them. We may have pondered at creation joining in our worship, but what about our lament? I think of Romans 8:18-23 in light of this.

- David is still humble, unwilling to assert his "rights" as king. This is shown in several ways - his refusal to treat Yahweh as a talisman, to claim that God is "his" to move with him where he pleases; his willing acceptance to be cursed by Shimei, a relative of Saul; his surrender to the Lord's will in the loss of kingship, which for all he knew was permanent. Here we also think of Jesus, who submitted to the worst ridicule, torture and cursing from men (1 Peter 2:21-25).

"Then the king said to Zadok, "Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.  But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him." (15:25)

"David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today."

 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself." (16:11-14)

It is difficult to capture the beauty of this scene in just a few comments, but it magnifies my love and admiration of David, and subsequently, my love for David's greater Son, who is known as "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering" (Isaiah 53:3). For on the cross, Jesus embodied the genre of lament too and accomplished the salvation of my soul.

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