Friday, May 29, 2009

The Hobbit

Every so often this past semester I would walk into my my friend Paul's room, which was right beside mine, and browse through the books on his tall, dark-wooded bookshelf. In between the volumes on Spanish history and political theory was a sizable collection of fiction, from Forster to Dostoevsky. Every time I would scan the titles looking for something new, my eye would pause for a moment as it came across the particular shelf with the Lord of the Rings series. I would get excited, seeing the prequel to this wonderful series, the Hobbit, sitting right beside the others, and my hand would always move to grab it. But every time, right as my hand was instinctively reaching out, my brain would catch up to my impulses and I'd realize that Paul owned the Spanish version of the Hobbit. My hand would drop and I'd always get a little bit sad. I know a fair amount of Spanish, mind you, but there's no way in Texas that I am going to try to wade through the verbiage of philologist J.R.R. Tolkein in another language! I have a hard enough time keeping up with him in my English!

Well, Paul's bookshelf is packed up all neatly in a box somewhere, and I've made my way back to Texas for the summer, so I knew that if I wanted to read the Hobbit, I'd have to go get it myself. And that's what I did. I had planned to hold off on reading it until a vacation I'll be taking in the near future, but there are only so many times you can pass by a book that looks that delicious without picking it up.

The Hobbit is a storytellers story. It's in a class of fiction all by itself. The people at Barnes and Noble don't quite know what to do with it. They have it in the Sci-Fi area, but it's not really all that Sci-Fi. It's just incredibly good fantasy, so unless you actually go to the nerdy section of the bookstore, you're likely not to come across this great work just browsing through the normal fiction section.

I love how Tolkein tells stories. He lets the action guide you, and he slowly builds a framework for your imagination to run wild with. He doesn't just say a place is beautiful, he gives details that make the beauty come alive in your mind. It's fair to say that this book is a wonderful way to work out your imagination. If all you read is non-fiction, or the Dan Brown type fiction, you'll come out of the literary world of Tolkein's Hobbit feeling like you've dunked your head in a pool of fresh, cool water.

The story is built around the classic method that Tolkein used in the Lord of the Rings: an epic journey. Here Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit we meet in The Fellowship of the Rings, sets off on an adventure with a team of dwarves and the always-likable wizard Gandalf. They set off for the mountain which the Dwarves used to call home, hoping to displace the terrifying dragon that has taken up residence there and re-claim the buried treasure they left behind.

It's a story that you need to let yourself fall into. It is a quick read, but there's enough meat to keep you chewing as well. It gave me a taste of a kind of storytelling that often gets pushed to the side in our modern, cookie-cutter world. And any book that grabs your hand, carries you off to a far-away land, and deposits you in the middle of the action like Tolkein does is a worthy way to spend some time. Make sure and read The Hobbit before it comes out on the silver screen in 2012!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hope, basketball, and the Hobbit

I. Hebrews. 'there is a bringing in of a new hope' (7.19) What fascinating implications come from this short little clause tucked in the middle of a fairly tedious section on Melchizedek the priest. It's just incredible how the Scripture still lives and breathes and moves, even though it was written such a long time ago. It's the living Logos, continuing to bring truth and clarity and conviction and hope to my life every time I engage it. Think about it. The Jewish citizens of Jesus' time were waiting for a Savior, strong and mighty, to come and rescue them from the hands of their pagan oppressors. And then Jesus comes and proclaims that if you've seen him, you've seen the Father. He comes and indeed saves, but not in the way that everyone was expecting. I wish I could go back and figure out what was going through the head of the writer of Hebrews during the penning of these initial chapters. Hebrews works so hard explain the hope that has arrived because of Jesus' death and resurrection, and I have to wonder how it was received. It gets me thinking further, how are we receiving this news today?

II. I'm watching the NBA Conference Finals, and as I've been watching the games so far, here are some observations:
a. The Cavaliers have been exposed by the Magic as a one dimensional team. Where is the rest of the team? Lebron is playing
phenomenally, but the rest of their team leaves me wondering how they won so many games in the regular season.
b. The Lakers are the team to beat. The combination of inside/outside with Kobe and Gasol is just too much for any of the
remaining teams to handle. But the funny thing is, the NBA playoffs are incredibly unpredictable, and this year is proving
just as much.
c. Charles Barkley is back to his old form as TNT's half-time comic relief. The bit with the M&M's was hysterical.

III. The Hobbit. I think i'm going to start making this blog more of a book review place than a "what's going on in my life" page. So i'll start soon with a review of The Hobbit, from esteemed writer J.R.R. Tolkein.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Packing, Summer, and Steps

I. Packing up my stuff at the end of the year always reminds me of the uselessness of so much stuff that I own. Simplicity is something I'd like to strive for in my life. Not the kind of simplicity that is bare-bones, but the kind of simplicity which exhibits taste but not showiness. You know what I mean? I've always thought that the way Jesus taught us to live was to never become controlled by our stuff, but instead to be grateful for what we do have and realize that it is what it is: temporary stuff. All this packing up just puts a visual reminder to the principle of storing up treasures in Heaven, reminding me that life is about the more subtle things like relationships, love, and learning to forgive than it is about accumulating and having the right kind of stuff.

II. I am grateful to still have the presence of Summer in my life. I shudder when I think about the future when Summer becomes just another season. Summer to a student means a whole different thing than it does to the average citizen, and I'm just not ready to relinquish my enjoyment of Summer for another few years...

III. Life is a series of steps. Each chapter in the book has its own twists and turns, climaxes and new beginnings. I'm at the start of a fresh chapter, and i can't even begin to imagine the story that will emerge. I just want a grateful heart and thankful eyes as I experience whatever lies up ahead.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

on Graduating

Earlier today, I walked across the platform, received my diploma, and walked back to my seat. The culmination of four years of growth and learning, more than just a degree. This hymn does a better job than I can do of giving thanks to God for his great faithfulness through these four years:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside