When I was very little there was a red jay that used to come to our back porch every day, all summer long. We had a glass sliding door that lead out onto the porch and a wood-railing that wrapped around the porch. Every morning, like clock-work, that bird would perch upon the wood-railing, look at the glass, and then with all his might he would spread his wings and fly head-first into the glass door. He would bounce off the door, then go back, sit on the railing, and do it all over again. Over and over again we would hear the ping, ping, ping of his little beak hitting the glass. He would fly at that glass door from sun-up to sun-down every day until it was time for him to fly South, but we knew he would be back the next summer. For 5 years we saw that bird, he chipped our glass door a few times. For a while we could not understand what he was doing then we figured it out. That bird saw his reflection in the glass and he was trying to fly through the glass and get to himself. A few years ago the red bird stopped coming to our house. I don’t know what happened to him, maybe he died, maybe he finally broke through the glass. I guess well never know, but I’ll never forget the bird who almost broke his neck trying to shatter the reflection he saw of himself.
I apologize for the lateness of the post. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything particularly special today. This week in my reading I came across this great quote about art, so I just wanted to share it with all of you to remind you of the importance of art and to encourage you to keep on creating.
“Without the symbols of art, in all their many manifestations – painting and music, costume and architecture,, poetry and sculpture, – man would live culturally in a world of the deaf, the dumb, and the blind.”
So last night I was so blessed to be able to cross off the number two thing on my Bucket list. I got to see Bon Jovi, my absolute favorite band, live, in concert. It was the most fantastic experience of my entire life. When the opening band came out on stage I suddenly got very emotional. You see my mom introduced me to Bon Jovi at a young age. I’ve been listening to him my whole life and so many of his songs help me express my feelings. I have been dreaming about this day for as long as I can remember and it finally came! I honestly was on the verge of tears when I realized my lifelong dream was about to come true; I was about to be in the presence of Jon Bon Jovi!
As I fought back these tears another realization hit me. If this is what it is like being in the presence of Bon Jovi, how much more fantastic will it be for me when I am in the presence of God?! Do not misunderstand me, I am not equating Bon Jovi to God, but I am drawing a parallel between the experiences I have had with each of them. As I already mentioned I grew up singing Bon Jovi songs, waiting for the day I would get to see him perform live. Similarly, I was raised in a loving, Christian home. I grew up reading God’s word, singing His praises and I continually wait for the day I will get to be in His glorious presence. If I almost cried at a Bon Jovi concert, I cannot imagine what an emotional wreck I will be when God finally calls me into His glorious presence, and you know what? I can’t wait!
It is almost impossible to scroll through Facebook (or whatever social media forum you choose) without being bombarded by political posts that turn into squabbles or even out-and-out fights. In his work The City of God, St. Augustine addresses the importance of maintaining peace amongst human beings and trusting that God is in control of the earthly kingdom as well as the heavenly one. We must understand that people are going to have different political opinions and whether or not we agree we should still strive to live in harmony. Augustine says, “from one individual a multitude might be propagated, and that this fact should teach mankind to preserve a harmonious unity in plurality” (68). Yet when people face an unknown that they do not like, they often respond to their fear with anger. When a president is elected and his polices frighten some, they lash out in anger against those who may support that president. Those who support that President respond in anger to protestors leading to a vicious cycle of fear and anger which disrupts harmony. St. Augustine addresses this idea as well saying, “For no event is to no purpose under the all-embracing government of God’s providence, even if the reason for it is hidden from us.” We all must trust God, and understand that whatever leader we have, He has given us for a reason. It is only through this trust that fallen, angry, and frightened people can hope to live in harmony.
In a world that is all about efficiency, people are constantly forced to ask themselves, “what is my worth.” As a society we are focused on getting things done faster and better. Everything is about financial gain, and since time is money, there is nothing more sinful than wasting someone’s time. If a friend comes to us and is struggling emotionally, it is a waste of time. People are afraid of being open about their problems, because they don’t want to be a burden. If someone does speak up about a struggle the reaction they receive is often one of, “how can we fix you.” We live in a mechanical age where most “problems” can be fixed. As a result, we have lost the art of listening and supporting. I am guilty of this; I have never been very good at being empathetic. When someone opens up to me, before they have even finished telling me about their struggle, I have stopped listening and already begun thinking up ways to help them fix things. I read a book by theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Life Together, in which there was a section entitled ‘The Ministry of Listening.” This portion really struck me,
“Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.”
People are so quick to offer help, and so slow to listen to someone who really needs it. This adds to a person’s struggle instead of making it better. Your struggling friend or acquaintance will sit there and listen to you come up with ways to make it all better, and wonder what is wrong with them that they can’t seem to change their situation.
So often the struggle is one of someone seeking to find their worth in a world that demands their personal output. They become anxious when they cannot see an immediate way that they will benefit society. They become depressed when they see others around them functioning with purpose and value. Then, worst of all, they begin to think the most productive thing they can do is remove themselves from the equation of life. This is a truly tragic reality of the world we live in. And through it all we refuse to listen, and we continually look for solutions.
Do not misunderstand, I in no way wish to assert some sort of authority on the issue. I have never struggled with severe anxiety or depression and cannot begin to understand what it’s like. I have however struggled with being a good listener and being supportive of those in need. So the goal today is to offer a new take on helping those who have severe physical and emotional struggles that cannot be fixed with a formula of actions, but can be helped with a listening ear.
This past Tuesday, January 3rd, would have been the 125th Birthday of author and professor J.R.R Tolkien were he still alive. I also just finished reading his novel The Hobbit. This being the case I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate him with today’s post.
Let’s start with a few facts about Tolkien. He was the professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, where he worked with C.S Lewis. He and Lewis become good friends over time. Tolkien, a devote Catholic, spoke often to Lewis, an agnostic, about religion. Eventually Lewis, due to the influence of God through many Christian friends, converted. Tolkien fought in and lived through World War I. During his time in the trenches he began formulating one of the most intricate fantasy worlds of all time, Middle Earth.
I just took a trip through Middle Earth with Bilbo Baggins. I am sad to say that my time there has been short. I have only read two of Tolkien’s novels, a defect I am working on remedying. Many years ago I started reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it was over my head. I also remember thinking that I did not like Tolkien’s poetry. I have since changed my mind. So I will leave you with this, two of my favorite poems from The Hobbit that, in a way, tell the story.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.
The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.
For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.
On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.
Goblets they carved there for themselves
And harps of gold; where no man delves
There lay they long, and many a song
Was sung unheard by men or elves.
The pines were roaring on the height,
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.
The bells were ringing in the dale
And men they looked up with faces pale;
The dragon’s ire more fierce than fire
Laid low their towers and houses frail.
The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.
Far over the misty mountains grim
To dungeons deep and caverns dim
We must away, ere break of day,
To win our harps and gold from him!
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.