A Look into the Life and Legacy of J.R.R.Tolkien

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

“The Father of Modern Fantasy,” John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (BBC News)

Today, nobody stumbles over the name “Tolkien” in the English-speaking world, but back in 1962, when I was in junior high, it was all news to me! The Lord of the Rings was just becoming popular in America, and one of my closest friends, Danny Green, kept me fascinated as he reported day by day what he’d read about the little Hobbit who had to leave his cozy home and go adventuring to save Middle Earth. Since those days, Tolkien’s series has ranked as one of the most popular fiction works of the twentieth century!

Fifty-five years later, I’ve still not read Tolkien’s fantasy books for myself, but I was delighted to watch the recently released movie, Tolkien, based on the youth and formative years of this brilliant and dedicated scholar!

There is so much I didn’t know about Tolkien, and almost everything I learned has made me admire him more than ever! Tolkien lived in Britain and was orphaned at a young age. He was among those who had to make his way in the world through sheer grit . . . for Tolkien—hard work, wisdom, and unending, passionate drive.

At a young age, he fell in love with another orphan, and the movie records their very sweet relationship. (Although, as in all good romances, there were many challenges, twists, and uncertainties.)

Because of his brilliance as a student and the care of the Catholic priest who was his guardian, Tolkien was eventually allowed to attend Oxford, where he succeeded in becoming fast friends with several of his classmates. (This was no easy feat, either! My father, who attended Harvard for graduate school—also in philology—as a young man during the Great Depression, found it very difficult trying to fit in with the wealthy elite without the trappings of material privilege.)

Perhaps the most difficult part of Tolkien’s journey was his military service during World War 1. The movie is PG-13, so the war scenes—though terrifying and disheartening—are not about the gore but rather to give us a feel for the intense suffering and emotional trauma that all soldiers experienced.

Did he survive the war? Did he get to marry the girl of his dreams? Did he get to finish his studies? When and how did he become so famous? All great questions, and most of them were answered in this wonderful depiction of his life!

The very best aspect of the movie (for me) was the goodness of Tolkien’s character throughout (in stark contrast to most stories you hear about the “bright young things” of his era). Sometimes people are so bright and shiny with goodness that it just makes you wonder why, so I studied more of his life from Wikipedia. There I discovered the reason: He had a “deeply religious spirit.” As Tolkien explained: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

Sign in the Eagle and Child Restaurant, Oxford

Ah, ha! Yes, I did know of the connection between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and the good spiritual influence Tolkien had been on Lewis, helping him come to faith. It was C.S. Lewis who later wrote Mere Christianity . . . the book that influenced both my mother and my dear aunt, “Lant Henna,” to believe in Christ many years hence!

Alan and I even made a bit of a “pilgrimage” to Oxford’s Eagle and Child (pub/restaurant where their literary group, The Inklings, met) with two of our sons (one of whom is now an editor and aspiring writer himself). So, we have a very personal experience of being inspired and edified by the works of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

So, thank you Tolkien, and thank you to those of you who gifted us with this great movie! I hope many people see it and find the story uplifting and encouraging!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Until Forever

“Live Until You Die!”

That’s the message of this incredibly inspiring true love story called Until Forever (2016 version), which is based on the lives of Michael and Michelle Boyum and their enduring love as teenagers and young adults dealing with Michael’s diagnosis of leukemia.

If I didn’t know someone with a similarly buoyant spirit, it would be hard to imagine anybody as sweet, faith-filled, and steady as this young man, but in reality, I know Tom F., who has also been through the wringer with leukemia and is every bit as kind and outreaching, so I know a few of these treasures exist!

Like my friend Tom, Michael always had the needs of others at the forefront of his thinking, and even during his hospital stays, he was busy reaching out to others with encouragement and the love of Jesus!

Jamie Anderson as Matt Boyum

Until Forever doesn’t shy away from the painful realities of how a cancer diagnosis effects everyone who loves the patient. In Michael’s case, his younger brother was severely effected,

Joel Jacobsen as Ben

as were many friends from his church family. (I loved the inclusion of this sweet young man!)

Madison Lawlor as Michelle Larson

Equally miraculous to Michael’s radiant spirit was the response of Michael’s girlfriend, Michelle, who refused to give up and stood by his side despite all the pain, insecurities, and sufferings that Michael endured. (Tom’s wife, Lynnie, is actually just as beautiful and wonderful as Michelle is, as depicted in the movie, so I have no trouble believing such devotion and faith exist!)

Here is a photo of the “real” Michael and Michelle (shown in the final credits of the movie). I truly believe only God can produce a love like theirs!

Well, I don’t want to ruin the story by telling you everything, but it’s one of the most moving movies I’ve seen in a long time, full of faith in the midst of fear

and triumph in the midst of tragedy.

If you are struggling with fear and tragedy, please take the time to watch this movie! It is possible to experience hope and peace in the midst of any illness.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, ESV).

unPlanned

Two days ago I had the pleasure of an unplanned visit with the gaffer for the newly released movie, Unplanned. (John is my son Dan’s brother-in-law.) Have you seen it?

It’s the gripping true story of the experience of Abby Johnson, who personally had two abortions and then became an activist for Planned Parenthood . . . until she actually witnessed an abortion. Until. What about you? Do you have any opinion about whether or not abortion is a reasonably good option for ending an unwanted pregnancy? If you think abortion might be the best and easiest option, please PLEASE watch Unplanned.

It’s rated R, probably for blood visuals related to some abortion problems, but I think it is valuable for anyone who is exposed to sexual contact . . . or for sure by high school age. Does it make sense that any girl—who is under 18 can have sex, get pregnant, and have an abortion without parental consent—should be restricted from seeing a movie that discusses the issues surrounding abortion? I’d say “NO!”

I grew up in a liberal home and didn’t blink an eye at over the issue. I figured that if anybody ever raped me, I’d have an abortion. However, my husband, Alan (who was usually more liberal than I was on “political issues”), said he thought it was wrong and that if I was ever raped and impregnated, he would prefer that I kept the baby rather than getting an abortion. I was totally shocked, but it also made me rethink my position. During medical school, as part of his training, Alan observed an abortion. His response was similar to that of Abby Johnson’s. He was horrified and sickened. He never wanted to be witness to an abortion again, and he felt that he had watched the undeniable killing of a helpless infant that resisted with all its tiny being having its life snuffed out.

After Alan began practice, he discovered that he had patients who even into their eighties were still haunted by their experience of having aborted a baby early in life. The regret and shame seemed never ending. He has been a strong proponent for being pro-life ever since, and so am I.

But, what about the millions of women who have aborted babies? Is there no relief for them from having an aching heart and a bad conscience?

Yes! There is no sin outside the grace of God, nor are any of us without sin, we just sin in different ways. In fact, the Bible is clear that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That’s why Jesus died: to provide a way to be forgiven for our sins: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17, ESV).

If you have had an abortion, are considering having an abortion, or know someone who is struggling with abortion issues, please consider watching Unplanned. It will make you sad, but it also offers hope and healing! God is here, and He loves us!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV).

Enjoying A Miracle Season

Are you all excited about the fall sports season? I love all the inspiring movies based on true stories have been coming out in the past few years. One I missed from 2018 until recently is The Miracle Season, which recounts the triumph of joy over sorrow just a few years ago during 2011 when a group of high school girls from West High in Iowa City tried to rally after losing their star player through a tragic accident.

Danika Yarosh as Caroline “Line” Found

Caroline “Line” Found was the sort of person who loved everybody and was loved by everybody.

William Hurt as Dr. Ernie Found

Her father, a surgeon, was also very involved in trying to foster team spirit and good will between the team members and throughout the community.

The Real “Found” Family

However, he had his own set of heartaches,
not the least of which was the fact that his deeply loved wife was dying.

Helen Hunt as Coach Kathy Bresnahan

Their coach (who won National Coach of the Year in 2011)
was dealing with a lot of pain and loss in her personal life as well.

Erin Moriarty as Kelley Fliehler

Of course, the kids on the team—and especially Caroline’s best friend from childhood, who was chosen to replace “Line” as the team’s center—were all totally traumatized by the loss and emotionally immobilized.

Although West High’s volleyball team had been the state champions in 2010, they lost every game in the fall of 2011 until they would have to win all fifteen of the last games in order to qualify for the championship playoffs.

Could they do it? What happened? Wanna know?

If you’ve got a free evening for a heart-rending, heart-warming story of overcoming sorrow to “Live Like Line!” (giving life all the best you’ve got), take time for The Miracle Season.

You never know, it just might spark a miracle season this fall in your own life too!

After all, God is the God of the impossible, and He delights in helping us when we cry out to Him for help!

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2).

Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17).

Loving Even The Least of These

On the topic of loving our enemies, the new 2019 movie, The Least of These,

is a horrific account of one cataclysmic clash between radical Hindus and Christians in India just twenty years ago, in January of 1999.

Based on the life story of Graham and Gladys Staines, who were missionaries from Australia caring for a leper colony in Odisha, The Least of These traces the life and legacy of the Gaines family, who spent forty years caring for the needs of the least-of-the-least untouchables cast out from society because of their leprosy.

I don’t want to tell the end from the beginning, but it is a heart-rending movie.

Gladys retired in 2004, and the following year, she was awarded the Padma Shree in India in recognition of her work among the lepers.

In 2016, Gladys also received the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.

The movie was shot on location in 2012, although it took many years to produce and was just released in America this year.

If you’re looking for an inspiring example of the love of Christ, you will appreciate this movie. (Because of the content, I do not recommend it for children. I think the PG-13 rating is exactly right.)

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Thoughts on the Value of Giving

Having just spent four beautiful weeks enjoying our children and grandchildren (including our youngest grand child’s first birthday, which was yesterday), I want to add just a few more miscellaneous thoughts on the joy of giving and the rewards that come to us for sharing what we have with others:

“Those who are happiest and those who do the most for others” (Booker T. Washington).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill).

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

“It is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi).

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” (Albert Einstein)

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give” (Ben Carson).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank).

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” (Charles Dickens).

“If we want to know our God-given gits, we must know the giver” (Eric Samuel Timm).

“You can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts, so I want to celebrate Jesus” (Lecrae).

“Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” (Joyce Meyer).

Giving isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege!

The greatest joy in life is finding God’s love and sharing it with others!

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (Good News Translation of the Bible).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (40): Be a Giver, not a Taker!

Of course, we all start out as receivers and takers; from the inception of life (which is a gift in itself), even an embryo is entirely dependent on its mother for nourishment and the continuation of its tiny existence, and really, that pattern continues through birth and well into childhood. But, God doesn’t intend for us to continue being “on the take” for our entire lives!

It’s not just that some of us are “givers” by nature and others are “takers.” Those who are mature give; those who are immature take. God wants us to become mature, which is why Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:42: “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” In Luke 6:30, the command is even more emphatic: “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” Wow! Really?

Why does Jesus ask us to do such impossible things? Is he really just out to make us feel like failures? I don’t think so. I think he knows something that we have trouble understanding: True love gives, and loving truly makes us happy! What do you think? Do you think that’s right or wrong?

I think Jesus was right (as always), even though I struggle to be like Jesus. But, notice his example: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). So, Jesus came to earth and made himself of “no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7) for our sakes, so that we could become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) and someday “reign for ever and ever” with him (Revelation 22:5). In order to do all this, he had to die on the cross—the ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours. The ultimate gift given by the ultimate Giver! Do you suppose this made Jesus sad, or happy? He didn’t do it begrudgingly, because there was no other way. He did it “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Yes, he sweat great drops of blood and would have taken some other way had there been one, but Jesus surrendered fully to God’s will, even to the point of death, in order to give the gift of eternal life to all of us who put our hope and faith in him. He is our example, and he did it for JOY. God wants us to give for the joy of it, because we love, and not simply out of a sense of duty. This is what Jesus wants us to understand. Everything he teaches us is for our good, so that we might experience the abundant life that God intends for us!

I’ve been meditating on Psalm 41:1, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor” and love this story, told by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) in his book, Italy (recorded by Spurgeon in his inimitable Treasury of David): In Turin, Samuel Rogers met a Piedmontese nobleman who told him that he’d been on the verge of committing suicide in a river when a little boy tugged at his cloak and begged the man to help his family of six children who were starving to death. The nobleman followed the child to his home and was so overwhelmed by the poverty and squalor that he gave them his entire purse. They burst into such joyous gratitude that he said, “It filled my eyes, it went as a cordial to my heart. ‘I will call again tomorrow’ I cried. ‘Fool that I was to think of leaving a world where such pleasure was to be had, and so cheaply!’”

Here are more awesome thoughts on giving to the poor from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David: “How foolish are they that fear to lose their wealth by giving it, and fear not to lose themselves by keeping it? He that lays up his gold may be a good jailer, but he that lays it out is a good steward . . . Thou hast riches here, and here be objects that need thy riches—the poor; in heaven there are riches enough but no poor, therefore, by faith in Christ make over to them thy moneys in the world, that by bill of exchange thou mayest receive it in the world to come; that only you carry with you which you send before you.”—Francis Raworth, Teacher to the Church at Shoreditch, in a Funereal Sermon, 1656.

Texts for the Meditation: Matthew 5:42, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Luke 6:30, “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

Remember: Giving isn’t simply a duty; it’s a great privilege!